Back Yard Brawl
First, Pitt tried deception and trickery. Finally, the Panthers remembered how they ruined West Virginia's season last year: Give LeSean McCoy the ball and ask their defense to take away what the Mountaineers do best.
McCoy scored his second touchdown with 52 seconds left to finish off a career-high 183-yard rushing performance, and Pittsburgh beat rival West Virginia 19-15 on Friday to make Cincinnati the Big East champions.
McCoy, who failed to get the ball several times earlier on key goal-line plays that failed, carried on all but one of the 10 plays on the 59-yard, game-winning touchdown drive in the closing minutes. He capped it by scoring from the 1.
``He's a great player, a great running back,'' West Virginia's Ellis Lankster said of McCoy, who has 331 yards in two games against the Mountaineers. ``We tried to contain him, but ...''
Pitt (8-3, 4-2 in Big East) rallied from a 15-7 deficit despite Bill Stull's two interceptions, his fumble and two drives inside the West Virginia 10 that didn't produce points. Even with all the mistakes, the Panthers came back to win in the fourth quarter for the fifth time this season.
``We stepped on their throats (on the final drive) and then let the defense win the game for us,'' McCoy said.
Pat White scored on a 54-yard touchdown run that put West Virginia ahead 12-7 in the third quarter, but the Mountaineers (7-4, 4-2) lost their second in a row in the Backyard Brawl - though this loss didn't hurt nearly as badly as last year's 13-9 defeat that cost them a national title game appearance.
White threw incomplete on fourth-and-1 from the Pitt 18 on the final play to end it. The leading rusher among quarterbacks in NCAA history with 4,385 yards, White ran 12 times for 93 yards and was 15-of-28 for 143 yards but also was intercepted twice. Except for his long TD run, Pitt effectively controlled White.
``After the first play where he pulled it and took off, I think they had enough of that,'' West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said.
White ran for 220 yards in each of his first two career games against the Panthers, but was held to 41 yards last season.
``We're athletic and quick enough to defend against him now,'' Pitt cornerback Aaron Berry said. ``I think he was getting frustrated. He wanted to make that play and it wasn't there.''
Also shut down was Noel Devine, who came in with 1,121 yards but was held to 17 yards on 12 carries and now has 28 yards in two games against Pitt.
``I hate losing to Pitt, I really do. I hate it,'' linebacker Pat Lazear said. ``It was surprising to not get that last touchdown. You got to have confidence in Pat White, you really do.''
To win the Big East, West Virginia needed to win its final two games and hope that No. 16 Cincinnati lost Saturday to Syracuse, but now the Bearcats' game is moot.
More bad news for the Mountaineers: McCoy, who has 1,308 yards rushing this season and 2,636 in his career, said for the second time this week he'll return to oppose them again next season. He is eligible to enter the NFL draft.
``I don't feel like we've accomplished enough here yet,'' said McCoy, whose 35 touchdowns are the most by any Pitt player in his first two seasons, topping Larry Fitzgerald's 34 in 2002-03. ``I want to get Pittsburgh back to where it used to be.''
The Panthers are assured of going to their first bowl since 2004, possibly the Sun, though they still must play Connecticut on Dec. 6.
Stull (12-of-23, 156 yards) twice cost Pitt chances to mount go-ahead or tying drives in the fourth quarter - overthrowing Conredge Collins on a fourth-and-3 gamble from the West Virginia 34 before being intercepted by Brandon Hogan on another overthrow. That set up Pat McAfee's third field goal for West Virginia, a 40-yarder that made it 15-7.
``Billy was struggling a little bit,'' coach Dave Wannstedt said.
Stull said teammates kept coming up to him and saying, ``Don't worry about it, we'll get it back for you.''
The Panthers did that when Jovani Chappel, recently demoted from the starting lineup, stepped in front of White's poorly thrown pass and returned it to the West Virginia 16. McCoy needed only two plays to run it in, scoring from the 11 to get Pitt to within 15-13. The 2-point conversion failed with 8:07 remaining.
``That (interception) kind of gave us the spark we needed,'' McCoy said.
For the first time since 2001, neither of the bordering state rivals went into the Backyard Brawl nationally ranked.
The Panthers, a running team all season, crossed up West Virginia by throwing on its opening possession - then, perhaps unwisely, repeatedly tried doing it again. Stull needed only five plays to drive them 64 yards, finishing it with a 30-yard scoring pass - only his seventh this season - to Derek Kinder for a 7-0 lead 2:10 into the game.
Later, the Panthers drove to a first down at the 9 but missed a field goal. Stull's fumble led to another McAfee field goal, and Stull was intercepted in the final minute of the half after Pitt had a first down at the West Virginia 3.
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