Bruising FB Makes Breakout Play In Final College Game
57-yard run for WVU's first touchdown was the longest of Owen Schmitt's career
Jan. 3, 2008
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Owen Schmitt rumbled down the field like a dump truck at full throttle - bound for the end zone on the breakout play of West Virginia's 48-28 victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
It was a fitting end to the college career of the blue-collar heart of the Mountaineers.
The 57-yard run for West Virginia's first touchdown Wednesday night was the longest of his career. His other two longest also came in bowl games - 54 yards in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, 52 yards in the 2006 Gator Bowl.
As usual, though, Schmitt's real work was done on behalf of others.
His lead block of Darien Williams cleared the way for Noel Divine's 17-yard touchdown run that put West Virginia ahead 27-15.
Then Schmitt lined up in the slot and threw a key block on Pat White's 42-yard run to set up the next West Virginia score.
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound fullback with a smoothed-down mohawk haircut wrapped up his rise from walk-on to one of the toughest, hardest-hitting players in college football.
The team's postseason media guide lists him with 10 career broken face masks (his own). He is a workout wonder in the weight room, where he can squat 625 pounds and bench press 365.
Schmitt served as a bruising sidekick to the Mountaineers' sleek, speedy Devine, White and Steve Slaton. They run past defenders, Schmitt runs over them or delivers a bone-crunching block.
The Mountaineers were plodding along with a 6-3 lead when Schmitt burst through the line into the open field en route to the team's first touchdown with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
West Virginia gave back 7,500 tickets because it couldn't sell them, costing the school $1 million. But the loud, yellow-clad minority in University of Phoenix stadium rose to its feet to cheer arguably the most popular player of the Rich Rodriguez era.
Of course, Rodriguez wasn't in the building. The coach who had decided to accept Schmitt as a walk-on transfer from NCAA Division III Wisconsin-River Falls three seasons ago resigned Dec. 16 to take the Michigan job. The school sued Rodriguez for $4 million.
Schmitt, an honor student, did not criticize his coach's departure.
"You've got to do what you've got to do sometimes," Schmitt said at the time. "He did all he could for us. As far as I know he did a lot of great things for this university."
Giving Schmitt a chance was one of them.