No Time To Dwell On Loss

There was little time to think about it then, but as Pitt's wild, lateral-laden, orange-dodging final play came to end against Cincinnati late Saturday night, so did the Panthers' Big East title hopes.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh (7-3, 3-2), there's a quick turnaround with the 101st Backyard Brawl against West Virginia (7-3, 4-1) taking place Friday at noon at Heinz Field. And for Pitt fifth-year senior Scott McKillop, the game can't arrive quickly enough.

"Not really, because I want to get this bad taste out of my mouth,'' McKillop said. "Our morale here is a little hurt. So, we're excited to get back on the field (Monday) and concentrate on West Virginia. What we need to do is regroup as a team, forget about last week and move ahead. This is a big week for the seniors, our last game at Heinz Field, so it's very special for that.

"It's upsetting that we're not playing for the Big East championship any more, but what can we do? Cincinnati beat us, and now we have to move on. They lead the Big East, but we still can finish second. And we have a big game against West Virginia, the 101st Backyard Brawl, and that's enough incentive. Everybody knows what goes on with the Backyard Brawl.

"It ignited the rivalry a little more, what we did to them last year,'' McKillop added. "And we know that they really despise Pitt. (But) I respect them. There's a lot of players I know and get along with, and I'll probably have some small talk with them before kickoff. But once it's 12:00, it's whatever. Let's go. So, we need to have a good week of practice and stay focused.''

That's easier said than done, but with a game of this stature, a big rivalry game, it's a perfect time for the Backyard Brawl to occur.

"It's going to be tough to put this loss behind us, but we've just got to come back and have a great week and finish strong in the Big East,'' Pitt sophomore defensive end Jabaal Sheard said. "We've got the Backyard Brawl, so we have to be ready. We were thinking Big East championship and the Orange Bowl, just like everybody else was, so it's going to difficult to change our mindset.

"But we've still got to compete. It's a Conference game, our big rival, and we still can go to a good bowl game. So, we have to work hard to gain that second spot in the Big East, and Cincinnati can lose their last game. West Virginia, we can beat them, so a lot can still happen in the Conference for us if we win out. But the first thing is to beat West Virginia this week.''

Fifth-year senior place-kicker Conor Lee is a Pittsburgh native and has been involved in several Backyard Brawls before, so he knows what's at stake for both teams. And as a Panthers upperclassmen, he's also well aware about what it will take for the team to re-focus its goals this week.

"We have a lot of older guys on this team, guys who've been around this program for a long time and have played in a lot of games, and they understand what's going on this week,'' Lee said. "They know what it takes to play against West Virginia, so I think we'll be fine this week. We just have to get our heads back on straight and move on to the next game.

"It helps that we have West Virginia up next, but we've been doing it all year. We lost the opening game and came back right away, and we lost to Rutgers and came back with a big win. So, we've been able to have a good practice week. This team will have no problems getting up for this game. (And) West Virginia, we play these guys every year, so we know what it takes.''

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Gus Mustakas played in Backyard Brawls as a freshman and sophomore, both lopsided Pitt losses -- 45-13 in 2005 and 45-27 in 2006 -- but a midseason knee injury forced him to miss last year's stunning Panthers' victory last year. So, he won't have a problem bouncing back from the Cincinnati defeat.

"It was a real tough loss for us, but we have such a big game coming up,'' Mustakas said. "The Backyard Brawl against West Virginia, the 101st edition, it doesn't get any bigger than that for Pitt and West Virginia.

"It's a big game every year, no matter what else is going on. We have to correct the mistakes we had against Cincinnati and put that game behind us, because we have a quick turnaround this week. I don't think that will be a problem, though, because it's West Virginia.''

Nothing else really needs to be said to the Panthers.

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