Tailback Steve Slaton doesn’t think there’s extra pressure on West Virginia’s fifth-ranked football team or himself.

“All we have to do is win and keep on winning,” the 5-10, 195-pound sophomore from Levittown, Pa., said. “That’s all any team wants. We just have to go out and do it.”

The Mountaineers will kick off the season at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Marshall. The game is a 60,000-seat sellout. It will be on statewide TV.

Slaton, the main man in WVU’s high-powered running attack, said blazing speed is the key to its success. At 4.34 seconds for 40 yards, he is still the team’s fastest runner.

Asked how he expects to respond to opponents’ loading up the box, he replied: “Just run through it.”

His thinking is that if defenses focus on stopping him, quarterback Patrick White or fullback Owen Schmitt will gain ground. “The guys up front do a great job blocking,” he noted.

Slaton rushed 205 times in 10 games for 1,128 yards and caught 12 passes for 97 yards as a true freshman in 2005. He also scored 17 touchdowns.

But Coach Rich Rodriguez said he might be used on kick returns, too.

That likely would be in the fourth quarter of a tight game when the team needed a jump-start. Southern Cal did that with Reggie Bush in 2006.

Slaton said, “If the coaches give me a shot at it, I’d take full advantage of it. I like having the ball in my hands.

He has been working more on returning kicks and also more on catching the ball in preseason practice.

“Running the ball, catching the ball, anything that has to do with me having the ball in my hands, I like it,” he said.

Rodriguez noted, “He has bulked up some and could carry the ball 25-30 times. He’s the type of runner you want out there. He’s got the speed.”

Asked whether he worries about being injured, Slaton replied:

“Football is a tough sport. I’ll try to do the best I can to stay out there. I worked real hard on my endurance so I can do that in games.”

Slaton likes the hype surrounding the team this year. He thinks the 38-35 upset of Georgia in the Nokia Sugar Bowl in January will give the players carryover momentum.

“But that was last year,” he said. “Now we’re looking to this year. If we work together, I think we can continue to be successful.”

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