Football: Pitt falls to WVU 35-10 in Backyard Brawl

By Alex Oltmanns

Leading up to this week’s Backyard Brawl against West Virginia, Pitt head football coach… Leading up to this week’s Backyard Brawl against West Virginia, Pitt head football coach Dave Wannstedt said that Saturday’s game would be decided not by which team made the biggest plays but by which team made the most bad plays.

Wannstedt was right.

Not only did the Mountaineers break off more big plays than Pitt, but the Panthers also hurt themselves by accumulating four turnovers in their 35-10 loss at Heinz Field today.

The loss hurts Pitt (6-5, 4-2 Big East) not only because the Backyard Brawl is a rivalry game but also because it eliminates them from contention for a Big East Championship and a BCS Bowl berth.

“The turnovers prevented us from taking the lead,” Wannstedt said in a news conference. “We gave up way too many plays on offense from a turnover standpoint.”

Pitt committed a costly turnover right away, as quarterback Tino Sunseri threw an interception to Mountaineer cornerback Brandon Hogan who returned it back to the Panthers’ 2-yard line before Ryan Clarke ran the ball in for a touchdown to give West Virginia (8-3, 4-2 Big East) the lead just one minute and 34 seconds into the game.

But the Panthers came right back. Sunseri ran 18 yards for a first down before capping the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Devin Street to tie the game at seven points per team.

Pitt was driving again and threatening to take the lead, but another turnover — this time a Dion Lewis fumble in the red zone — was picked up by WVU’s Terrence Garvin and brought back close to midfield.

On Pitt’s next drive, Ray Graham coughed up another costly fumble that was followed by a Noel Devine 48-yard gain on a pass from Geno Smith to set up West Virginia at the 2-yard line.

“Ray Graham’s fumble, I thought, happened when he was spinning (on the play),” Wannstedt said.

On the very next play, the Mountaineers capped the drive with a touchdown pass from Smith to Will Johnson to push the lead to 14-7 going into halftime.

But WVU soon added to its lead with another big play. This time, Travon Austin hauled in a 71-yard pass just three plays into the third quarter to make it 21-7 in favor of the Mountaineers.

After a Dan Hutchins field goal, Austin caught his second touchdown pass of the half with 1:49 left in the third quarter to push the Mountaineer lead to 28-10.

“I think it was a momentum shifter,” Pitt senior defensive end Jabaal Sheard said after the game. “We just didn’t finish, not enough plays made on defense.”

Just when it seemed as if the Panthers were poised to start to cut into their deficit, center Alex Karabin snapped the ball over Sunseri’s head and he wasn’t able to fall on the ball before the Mountaineers’ Scooter Berry pounced on it.

The turnovers — especially the ones in the red zone — proved quite costly. The Panthers actually gained two more total yards than the Mountaineers (362 to 360) but couldn’t finish drives.

“We had two or three opportunities to get points,” Wannstedt said. “You’re only going to get so many opportunities.”

Sunseri finished the game 28 for 46 with a touchdown and interception while also rushing for a team high 38 yards.

The Panthers will try to redeem themselves as they take on Cincinnati next Saturday at a yet-to-be-determined time.