By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
December 1, 2007
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Pitt's defense was it tonight. The Panthers knocked out West Virginia quarterback Patrick White for two quarters and knocked the No. 2-rated Mountaineers out of the national title picture with a stunning 13-9 victory Saturday in Morgantown.
West Virginia (10-2), a substantial favorite, could never get anything going offensively. Missed opportunities in the first quarter and critical turnovers later on gave Pitt the momentum it needed to pull off the biggest upset by either team in the 100 years of playing the Backyard Brawl. This one will be remembered by both sides for years to come. It was West Virginia's lowest offensive output since a 41-7 loss to Maryland in the 2004 Gator Bowl.
"We picked a bad time to play our worst game offensively in years," said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez.
The Panthers (5-7) aren’t going to a bowl game this year but it goes into the off season with the satisfaction of knowing they eliminated their biggest rival from playing for their first national title.
"This one hurts," said Rodriguez.
"I think that this thing (The Backyard Brawl) started last week," said Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt. "We tried to bring the tradition of the rivalry alive, so we showed tapes of past games all week long. This game will be the first one our team watches next season."
Turnovers were one problem for the Mountaineers. Another problem was their difficulty winning the line of scrimmage where Pitt was able to control the clock with LeSean McCoy runs on offense. Pitt also got consistent pressure on West Virginia's quarterbacks.
Pitt gave the ball to McCoy 38 times and the freshman responded with 148 yards. A holding call on Oderick Turner wiped out a McCoy touchdown run that would have put the Panthers ahead by 10 early in the fourth quarter. Another holding call on Turner wiped out a first-down McCoy run that would have burned off more of the game clock.
After watching Pat Bostick throw two first-half interceptions, Wannstedt chose to keep it conservative. The go-ahead touchdown came on a Bostick 1-yard goal-line plunge that was set up by a Vaughn Rivers fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half.
"Our defensive coaches did an unbelievable job at doing what we needed to do. Our offense did what we were supposed to do," said Wannstedt.
The big play for Pitt was an 18-yard reception by Turner on third and nine that moved the ball to the Mountaineer 17. Runs by McCoy and fullback Conredge Collins placed the ball at the one where Bostick scored the deciding touchdown.
Connor Lee kicked a pair of field goals for the Panthers, one coming right at the end of the first half from 48 yards and the other with 6:17 left in the fourth quarter from 18 yards to give the Panthers a six-point lead.
Both of West Virginia's scores came as a result of Pitt charity. West Virginia’s only touchdown came on a 6-yard Jarrett Brown run that was aided by a personal foul penalty whistled on Tommie Duhart on third-and-long-play that Pitt had stopped. And the Mountaineers were awarded a late safety when Pitt punter Dave Brytus chose to run out of the end zone to run out the clock.
"This is tough on everybody in this program - we've worked awful hard," Rodriguez. "I'm shocked that we didn't perform better and it starts with me."
West Virginia ran just four offensive plays in the third quarter and the Mountaineers had a season-low 183 total yards, turning the ball over three times. Two of those three turnovers led to 10 of Pitt’s 13 points.
"It was just a nightmare. We had the opening kickoff in the third quarter and we fumble the ball. We have the ball for four plays in the third quarter," Rodriguez said.
Patrick White and Steve Slaton combined to rush for 435 yards in last year’s victory at Heinz Field. This year, White finished the game running 14 times for 41 yards and Slaton had nine carries for only 11 yards.
Darius Reynaud caught three passes for 46 yards; WVU quarterbacks White and Brown combined to complete 9 of 16 passes for 79 yards.
Wannstedt, recently awarded a contract extension despite back-to-back losing seasons, produced by far his biggest victory during his tenure at Pitt.
"I remember walking off the field two years ago at halftime saying that we needed to run faster. Today, we ran faster," Wannstedt said.
West Virginia is the Big East’s representative in the BCS bowl and its bowl destination will be officially announced on Sunday.
"It's going to be a long month but we'll bounce back," Rodriguez said. "I didn't sleep all week and I'm not going to sleep well for a couple of days after this one."
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