Black Friday for Pitt
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
November 27, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Oh these Backyard Brawls sure have a way of creating its heroes. For the graybeards it was Bill McKenzie’s kick in 1975 that beat the 20th-ranked Panthers 17-14 on the game’s final play.
For those from the younger generation, it was Zach Abraham’s 60-yard touchdown catch that gave West Virginia a come-from-behind 47-41 victory over the Panthers in Pittsburgh in 1994.
Now, 15 years later, you can add Tyler Bitancurt to the list. It was his 43-yard field goal on the last play of the game that gave West Virginia a 19-16 victory over the eighth-ranked Panthers.
Thank God they still give scholarships to kickers.
"That was a heck of a football game," said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart.
It sure was, coach.
Bitancurt also made field goals of 20, 43 and 39 yards to give West Virginia its first victory over a Top 10-ranked team since beating third-ranked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. It was also the highest ranked Pitt team the Mountaineers have ever beaten, and the first Top 10-ranked regular season victim since a 28-7 triumph over No. 3-ranked Virginia Tech on Oct. 22, 2003.
Bitancurt’s four field goals tonight matched his season-high made in the season opener against Liberty.
"I'm real proud of our field goal team," said Stewart, who handles West Virginia's special teams. "I am proud of (long snapper) Cody Nutter and Jeremy Kash, who holds the ball. Kash was benched last season and I am proud of the way he came back tonight.
"Most importantly, I'm proud of Tyler Bitancurt," Stewart added. "I personally recruited him and that is special."
Despite the loss, Pitt (9-2, 5-1) still has a chance of winning the Big East regular season title and capturing its BCS bowl berth with a victory over Cincinnati next Saturday in Pittsburgh.
"We have high character kids that are highly motivated," said Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt. "We'll turn the page on this one in a hurry and get ready for Cincinnati. Every game has its own meaning. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win the Big East championship, and we can accomplish that next week.
West Virginia (8-4, 4-2) remains in contention for the Gator Bowl with one regular season game left at Rutgers, a 34-14 winner at Louisville earlier today.
"I'm real proud of the coaching staff - I thought they did a nice job," said Stewart.
Against Pitt, West Virginia relied on a stout defense that picked off the nation’s fourth-most proficient passer, Bill Stull, twice, and limited the Panthers to 325 total yards.
"I'm proud of the way the defense kept us in the game," said Stewart.
After a first half that more closely resembled a siege, the game finally opened up in the third quarter when the Mountaineers scored the game’s first touchdown on a Noel Devine 88-yard run.
As it has done for the last three years, Pitt stacked the box against Devine and he was able to break free of the line of scrimmage, angling to the near sideline where he out-raced the Panther defense to the end zone. It was Devine’s first TD run since the UConn game on Oct. 24, and it was the second-longest touchdown run of his career (92 yards against Syracuse last season from roughly the same area of the field).
It was also just the second play of 50 yards or longer from the line of scrimmage for WVU since the Colorado win back on Oct. 1.
West Virginia made it a two-score game with 10:05 remaining when Bitancurt made his third field goal of the game. That score was set up by Robert Sands’ interception at the Pitt 46.
Then Pitt’s offense came alive, driving 33 yards in seven plays to the West Virginia 19 where Dan Hutchins made a 36-yard field goal.
After getting one first down, West Virginia was forced to punt at its own 40 when Jarrett Brown’s third-and-12 pass to Tyler Urban netted just four yards.
Pitt got the football back at its own 25 with 4:08 left in the game. Stull hit Jonathan Baldwin for 15 yards to the 40 and then 10 yards to Mike Shanahan for 10 to the 50. Stull’s third pass down the near sideline was a beauty to Baldwin, who was two steps behind safety Sidney Glover for a 50-yard touchdown. Hutchins’ PAT tied the game at 16 with 2:54 left on the clock.
Mark Rodgers’ 29-yard kickoff return gave West Virginia good field position at its own 32.
Two Brown runs gave the Mountaineers 12 yards to the 44, and an 11-yard Brown-to-Alric Arnett pass to the near sideline gave WVU possession at the Pitt 45.
After a pair of incomplete passes, Brown scrambled for nine yards on third and 10 to the Pitt 36. On fourth and 1 with the clock reading 56.6 seconds, Stewart chose to go for it with 238-pound Ryan Clarke.
Clarke was stopped right at the 35 and the measurement confirmed a first down by inches. Devine got seven yards to the Pitt 28 and a two-yard run by Clarke got West Virginia into position for Bitancurt’s game-winning kick.
"We didn't execute the way we needed to against a good football team on the road to win," said Wannstedt.
Bitancurt actually could have had a fifth field goal but Stewart eschewed a short field goal try midway through the third quarter to go for it on fourth and goal at the 1. But Brown was sacked for a 10-yard loss while attempting to throw the ball out in the flat.
Brown completed 19 of 31 passes for 164 yards and also added 21 yards on 13 carries.
Devine had 134 yards on 17 carries while Clarke added 29 on 10 tries. West Virginia’s running game netted 205 yards against a Pitt defense ranked 16th in the country against the run allowing just 102.7 yards per game.
West Virginia’s 369 yards of offense were the most against Pitt since the 2006 game.
Stull finished the game 16 of 30 for 179 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin caught eight passes for 127 yards and freshman running back Dion Lewis ran 26 times for 155 yards - the fourth straight game the Mountaineer defense has allowed a 100-yard rusher.
The victory gives West Virginia’s its first undefeated season at home since 1993.
"I've been coaching here for 10 years and I can't remember that happening so that's a pretty good accomplishment," said Stewart. "I know a lot of them were not signature wins, but they were wins. I know our season ticket holders will be proud of that."
Stewart is now 1-1 against the Panthers and snaps Pitt’s two-game winning streak against the Mountaineers. Pitt was gunning for its third straight victory over West Virginia for the first time since 1982.
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