First and foremost, fifth-year senior quarterback Bill Stull played like he did at the end of last season. The two interceptions were killers, and constantly under-throwing wideout Jonathan Baldwin couldn't salvage the night.
It didn't help that senior tight end Dorin Dickerson dropped two passes, including one for a critical first down, and that the play-calling was ineffective. The execution wasn't sharp, either, but Stull has proven to be a rhythm passer and never was able to get anything going to build consistency let alone maintain it.
"They put some pressure on us, even though we weren't sacked a lot (once),'' Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said. "But we just didn't execute the way that we needed to against a good football team to win the game on the road.
"The key was they made plays, and ... we didn't. We just didn't block them well enough. A couple guys were semi-open and the ball, we just didn't execute as clean as we needed to be to win the game.''
Wannstedt shouldn't be exonerated, either, from taking some responsibility for the loss. One might wonder what he was thinking when he asked Dan Hutchins to make field goals from 46 and 53 yards in the game since the redshirt junior place-kicker established early this season that his range is closer to 40 yards than 50.
Pitt trailed 13-6 late in the third quarter, as WVU tailback Noel Devine just ran 88 yards for a touchdown. The Panthers opened at their own 42, another good start, and Dion Lewis ran for 26 yards to change the field position. A short pass to Baldwin and two Lewis runs would have gotten another first down to the WVU 21, but redshirt junior left tackle Jason Pinkston was called for a personal foul on an illegal chop block.
Stull threw poorly to Baldwin, and a third-and-14 play was incomplete to force a decision. Wannstedt and his staff determined that a 53-yard field goal was better than punting to take advantage of the field position. Even a kick into the end zone would have put the Mountaineers on the 20 instead of the 36.
The 46-yarder is a little more palpable, as it came on the first series in the game for Pitt. Lewis ran extensively that series, but the Panthers couldn't move the sticks after three early first-down plays. This was an issue that plagued Pitt's offensive line throughout the game. It just couldn't control the trenches like it had more often than not this season.
Wannstedt gave the following explanation for the long field-goal attempts.
"The one 53-yarder, it was fourth-and-13, and we had the wind behind us,'' Wannstedt said. "(And the 46-yarder), we thought we could make it.
"On the 53-yarder, we knew we were stretching it a little bit, but our defense was playing good. We were struggling to generate many points on offense, but with the wind behind us we thought we had a chance to make it.''
Defensively, it's tough to fault the Panthers for their overall performance. However, when they needed a stand at the end, they couldn't get the job done.
"We've done that all season, made the big plays when we needed them on defense, and we actually wanted that situation to happen,'' Pitt defensive end Greg Romeus said. "When the score is close, we know it can come down to (the defense). And when we got them down there, we should have stopped them long before the field goal.''
There was a 29-yard kickoff return to get WVU starting with good field position, and then quarterback Jarrett Brown made a couple plays that he hadn't made all night. But that was the story of this game.
Pitt just didn't make enough plays on offense and wasn't able to come up with a big one on defense with the game on the line.
And it's the reason that WVU won the 102nd Backyard Brawl.
Pitt Out Of Sync All Night
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