Pitt 19, West Virginia 15

Black Friday quickly turned into a Shady Day for the Pitt football team, as sophomore tailback LeSean McCoy practically willed the Panthers into the end zone for a touchdown in the final minute to give Pitt a gut-wrenching 19-15 win against West Virginia in the 101st Backyard Brawl Friday at Heinz Field.

LeSean McCoy had nine carries for 55 yards in the game-winning drive, including a one-yard scoring burst with 52 seconds remaining, and finished with a career-best 183 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries. McCoy now has 35 career touchdowns at Pittsburgh (8-3), including one receiving, to pass former wideout Larry Fitzgerald's team record (2002-03) for opening two seasons.

Fitzgerald played in 26 games. McCoy has played in 23 with the season-finale at Connecticut Saturday, as well as Pitt's bowl game to pad his two-year total.

"Great players make great plays in big games, and I thought that LeSean ... (he) obviously was the difference in the game, particularly since we were struggling throwing the ball,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said.

"Bill Stull was struggling a little bit, so our only chance to win the thing was to play defense and run the ball. And we were able to do that.''

Pitt began that game-winning drive on its 41 thanks to an 18-yard punt return by T.J. Porter. McCoy ran three straight plays, the same call each time, and netted 26 yards and two first downs. Inexplicably, LaRod Stephens-Howling got a carry and lost two yards, but McCoy returned and broke a toss around right end for 16 and a first down to the 19. Fullback Conredge Collins had a terrific block on the play.

McCoy added two carries for eight yards, but a facemask penalty put the ball made it first-and-goal at the 6. McCoy was stopped for no gain on first down, but ran for four to the 1 on second. On third down, there was no question he was getting the ball, and McCoy barreled in for the score. The Panthers' two-point conversion pass failed, but they wouldn't need it anyway.

"When we were in the huddle, we just said that we have to push it in there,'' McCoy said. "It's not going to be all about me. It's the guys up front and the wide receivers making blocks. That's what happened. I had the easy job, just follow the guys up front and hold onto the ball.''

Pitt cornerback Aaron Berry, a high school teammate with McCoy at Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg, Pa., knew he was witnessing something great.

"He's one of the best players ever to be here at Pitt,'' Berry said. "And he's one of the best players in college football history. Period.''

McCoy, who also scored on a five-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, believed that the Panthers wanted the game more. With the offensive line blocking aggressively, McCoy said they had fire in their eyes, the Mountaineers couldn't stop him even though they knew he was getting the ball.

"I think a player in my situation, you want the ball like that, no matter how good they are,'' McCoy said. "Even average backs, you want the ball. And in a game like this, you definitely want it. I'm the type of back where I get better as the game goes on and the more carries I get.

"And when you've got the horses up front, blocking the way they were blocking, you want the ball. I wanted the ball, and I wanted to get in there. And we did that. Everybody deserves credit for that. The coaches called the play. The line blocked excellent, and we executed the play for the touchdown.''

Actually Wannstedt and Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh took the ball out of McCoy's hands late in the first quarter, as quarterback Bill Stull threw an interception into the end zone on second-and-goal from the 2 with 19 seconds remaining and two timeouts on the board.

The Panthers opened the scoring with a touchdown on their first possession, as Stull connected with tight end Nate Byham for 28 and tossed a 30-yard scoring pass to wideout Derek Kinder to cap the 64-yard drive. Pitt should have scored again on its second drive, but practically blew off its foot after getting to first-and-goal at the 9 after a 15-yard McCoy run and 25-yard pass to Byham.

With McCoy on the bench, Stephens-Howling lost yardage. There was a holding call and a failed reverse from the tailback to Aundre Wright that lost three. Eventually, Conor Lee missed a 40-yard field goal to keep the score 7-0. WVU's Pat McAfee kicked field goals for 20 and 26 yards.

The second one followed Stull's end zone pick that ended a drive at the 2. Wannstedt noted that the Panthers believed they could move the ball with their passing game, but they miscalculated there.

"If I had that one back, as the head coach, we don't call that play,'' Wannstedt said. "But even if the play is called, they had it double-covered. They had a guy outside, and the safety rolled over the top. So, you've got to throw that ball away. That thing should not have been an interception.

"But, in hindsight, you'd like to have a different play. ... We probably should have called a timeout, because we wasted too much time in the huddle, but that's the one that really, we've got to get at least three points out of that.''

But it didn't matter, because Wannstedt and Cavanaugh called McCoy's number when it counted, with the game on the line at the end.

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