College football has a weird way of making people, from different parts of America, fans of teams that are nowhere near the address they have on their mail. Well, imagine a kid from Los Angeles, California rooting for a team in Morgantown, West Virginia.
That kid was me as I rooted for the West Virginia Mountaineers from 2005 to 2008. How could you not love Pat White and Steve Slaton? They were an electric duo that was slippery, fast, and were capable of scoring anywhere on the field. They even had an awesome nickname, “Nickel and Dime”, pertaining to their jersey numbers as White wore number five while Slaton rocked number 10.
White was a three-star athlete, according to Rivals, coming out of high school in 2004. He was recruited by SEC schools in LSU and Auburn as an Alabama high school standout. He committed to LSU as a receiver, but changed his mind to play for WVU. The Mountaineers promised him a chance to continue playing under center. Meanwhile, Slaton committed a year later as a three-star player out of Philadelphia who was lightly recruited. He was viewed as a defensive back more than anything, but ended up in Morgantown as well.
In the fall of 2005, White and Slaton began their reign of terror.
During their time together, White and Slaton put West Virginia in the limelight as one of the best teams in the country as they led the team to three straight 10-win seasons with an overall record of 33-5. The Mountaineers won three consecutive bowl games including two astounding wins against Georgia, in the Sugar Bowl, and Oklahoma, in the Fiesta Bowl.
On top of that, Nickel and Dime helped the ‘Neers win two Big East championships as well as appear in the top 10 for 24 weeks. The highest the team ever got was no. 2 in the nation.
West Virginia was led by their mad genius in head coach Rich Rodriguez as he helped change the trajectory of the spread offense. Teams like Oklahoma and Georgia ran the spread with elite throwers in Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford. Rich Rod tailored his offense to the skills of both White and Slaton as he knew he had two dynamic athletes. As a result, WVU finished with 11,072 rushing yards from 2005 to 2007, second to only Navy during that span.
“I don’t think they’re hung up on how many yards they have or how many touchdowns they have. I think they feed off each other as far as the impact on the game” said Rodriguez in an interview with CSTV.
The duo made their first hallmark moment in game number seven of the 2005 season against the 19th ranked Louisville Cardinals. White had been sharing time with Adam Bednarik until Bednarik sustained an injury in what appeared to be a drubbing of WVU. Down 24-7, White stepped in and ignited an offense that was in neutral. Slaton scored a Big East record six touchdowns while White applied the finishing touches on a 46-44 upset win.
That was just the start of something special.
How about White and Slaton in that aforementioned Sugar Bowl victory versus the eighth ranked Georgia Bulldogs? The Bulldogs were led by D.J. Shockley and were pegged the favorites in a game that was supposed to be too big for the ‘Neers. Well, that message was never conveyed to WVU because they came out like gangbusters as Slaton scored a 52-yard touchdown to set the tone. White threw and ran for a touchdown too while Slaton scored another 52-yard touchdown to ice the game in a 38-35 win. With 204 rushing yards and three scores, Slaton was named the game’s MVP.
A year later in the Gator Bowl, West Virginia won another 38-35 nail-biter this time against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets led by Calvin Johnson. Johnson had 186 yards and two scores and the Tech defense bottled up Slaton as he finished with 31 total yards. However, the game’s MVP in White finished with 276 total yards and three touchdowns. One of the deciding factors in that contest was White’s strike to Tito Gonzales on a 57-yard bomb.
How about their last joyous occasion together?
Despite winning the Fiesta Bowl over the fourth ranked Oklahoma Sooners, Nickel and Dime’s last winning impression came against the 20th ranked Connecticut Huskies. White and Slaton helped the Mountaineers bludgeon the Huskies in a 66-21 win. The Mountaineers were title contenders after that win as they were ranked second in the BCS rankings, but a loss against Pittsburgh the following week wiped out that feeling of euphoria.
White and Slaton were not the only sources of explosive plays for the team from Morgantown as Darius Reynaud, Owen Schmitt, and Noel Devine all played monumental roles in the WVU dynasty from 2005 to 2007. In addition, what made White and Slaton better was that they were like brothers on and off the field. They were even roommates too. They both appreciated one another as the game was a lot easier when they were in the zone.
“It makes you a lot more comfortable, on the field, when you have not only a friend, but a real good friend by your side to go to war with—go to battle,” said White while at WVU.
Slaton said, “It makes it a lot easier in just having him ‘cause I know if he’s doing something then I’m going to do something.”
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.
In 2008, we saw Rich Rod head to Michigan, Slaton get selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and White stay in Morgantown. Rodriguez went 3-9 as the new coach for the Wolverines, Slaton rushed for 1,282 yards for the Houston Texans, a franchise record at the time, and White won his fourth straight bowl game. In the 2009 NFL Draft, the shifty quarterback got drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins.
The explosive duo are forever ingrained in the West Virginia history books.
White finished his collegiate career with 35 wins, most in WVU history. His 4,480 rushing yards in second in both school and FBS history. In addition, he is first in total yardage in school history with 10,529 yards. On the other hand, Slaton is first all-time in Mountaineers’ school history in total touchdowns (55), second in all-purpose yardage (4,775), and third in rushing yards (3,923).
Both White and Slaton bounced around the NFL for a few seasons before playing one last season in the CFL in 2014. Before he was a dual-threat quarterback, White played baseball and was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels back in 2004. He played in the minors under the Kansas City Royals as well as the Miami Marlins.
These days White and Slaton are both parents and have translated well into life after football. White is the quarterbacks coach at Alcorn State while Slaton is a private chef. Both guys felt uneasy in their return to Morgantown last September as they weren’t embraced in a way two legends should be. However, they were recently named two West Virginia Hall of Fame honorees for 2018.
Today, we see the effect the Nickel and Dime had on the game of college football. We are seeing high volumes of spread offenses with the same triple option threat these two engineered at WVU. They were probably ahead of their time, but the polarizing twosome will forever be immortalized in college football.