BOULDER - For the first time in four years, West Virginia has a new quarterback. Mr. White has given way to Mr. Brown. Color Colorado's defense no less anxious.
Pat White, the Mountaineers' former all-purpose, all-everything quarterback, now is a rookie with the Miami Dolphins and has been replaced by his three-year backup, Jarrett Brown.
The Buffaloes saw nothing of Brown last season when the Mountaineers visited Folsom Field and lost 17-14 in overtime. Instead, they saw plenty of White (19 carries, 148 yards, two touchdowns) and just as much of tailback Noel Devine (26-133).
Still, in Brown, CU defenders believe West Virginia has found a credible replacement for White, whose 10,529 all-purpose career yards set a school record and 104 career touchdowns set school and Big East Conference career records.
White left such an indelible mark at West Virginia that at his final home game in Milan-Puskar Stadium, managers stamped out his number (5) in the snow at midfield and laid out T-shirts in the student section stands to also form the number.
White's storied legacy could be daunting for his successor, but Buffs linebacker Marcus Burton believes the 6-foot-4, 221-pound Brown simply is trying to be his own man.
"If you ask him, he'll probably say, 'I don't want to be Pat White.' He's a whole different animal," Burton said.
"Pat White was athletic and they had a whole lot of plays designed for him to run. It's no different now, but (Brown) is definitely a passer. The guy can use his arm or his feet; he's a football savvy guy when you watch his film."
But there are times when Brown appears not-so-savvy. During spring drills in Morgantown, coach Bill Stewart told reporters, "One scrimmage . . . I went over to him and told him, 'You make one more throw like that and you will never quarterback this football team . . .
"He wants to make every play, but sometimes you have to learn to retreat. There is nothing wrong with a punt. Whenever I was an offensive coordinator in high school, college and the pros, I said, 'You've got to protect this football.'
"We can punt the ball, give it back to them, and make them throw a pick or whatever.'
"Don't make every play. Sometimes youngsters have a feeling that they have to make every play and that's when they get into trouble."
Stewart's advice might have pushed into the dark recesses somewhere last week at Auburn. In three games, Brown has run 38 times for 208 yards and a touchdown, and he's completed 61 of 89 passes for 798 yards and five TDs.
But his four interceptions against Auburn - he has five for the season - were glaring among six Mountaineers turnovers in a 41-30 loss in which the Tigers rallied with 14 fourth-quarter points. Brown also lost a fumble in that defeat.
"These guys (Mountaineers) probably kind of feel disappointed that they let Auburn come back at the end, so I'm sure they're going to be hungry," Burton said.
Despite his last outing, Brown's strength and athleticism has made an impression on the Buffs. They've been told that one tackler won't bring him down and that arriving en masse on the ball is a must.
Said Burton: "He's very elusive and he's not going to go down with the first hit; he's not going to go down unless you swarm the ball."
Added linebacker B.J. Beatty, the Buffs' sack leader with two: "(Brown) is a big dude who probably moves just as good as Pat White. He's kind of scary. Watching him on film, he's got good acceleration and looks like he's got a stronger arm (than White). He looks more complete."
Then there's Devine, a diminutive junior (5-8, 176) the Buffs remember well, said Burton: "He can start one way and can end up on the other side of the field. That guy's an athlete."
"He's definitely something to watch," Beatty added. "He gets the littlest gap and takes off for 20-30 yards. Get him into open field and he's a deadly person. Hopefully, we contain him and keep him in check . . . and hold down the fort."
Devine is averaging 106.7 yards rushing a game this season and has scored five touchdowns - three of them at Auburn. Their six turnovers aside (and that's a devastating aside), the Mountaineers were potent on offense, amassing 509 yards (302 passing, 207 rushing).
"And I mean, Auburn doesn't have that bad of a defense," Burton said. "So I think that's something we've got to take into consideration."
Also to be taken into consideration are West Virginia's receiving corps, most of whom CU saw last season in Boulder and run the gamut in size from 6-8 Wes Lyons to 5-7 slotback Jock Sanders.
"We played against most of those guys last year," CU secondary coach Greg Brown said. "They've been in that system and are good players."
Brown and several CU defenders said while their success last season against the West Virginia offense can be a reference point for this week's preparation, it can't be relied on completely.
"There's always lessons to be learned," Greg Brown said. "There were some good things and some that were not so well done. We're going to try to learn from those things. But certainly, any time you play well on defense and get a win, that's got to count for something."
Because Beatty sees Jarrett Brown as "a little more complete" than White, he believes the Buffs will need to compensate by being a more complete defense: "We're trying to take into account the passing game as well. We're trying to play an overall complete game in covering both run and pass."
That CU is coming off its first shutout (24-0 against Wyoming) in two seasons - a result largely attributable to a simplified game plan - is a boost to defensive morale.
"It was huge," defensive end Marquez Herrod said. "I really think (simplification) helped all our guys understand everything better and play faster.
"That's really going to help from here on out, just giving guys that confidence that, hey, we know the calls, we know the defense. Now, let's just line up and play football."
Beatty echoed that, saying the Wyoming win, in addition to restoring the defense's confidence, "gave us a lot of momentum, a lot of swagger. This defense knows what it's capable of, and we know we can get better. So it's really exciting."