Thu 11/25 8:00 pm
AP Rank: 21
Last Game: BC
Returning Starters: 16
AP Rank: 28
Last Game: ND
Returning Starters: 10
Last Meeting: 2003
Common Opponents to Date:
WVU 31- UConn 19 / Pitt 17 - UConn 29
WVU 35 - Rutgers 30 / Pitt 41 - Rutgers 17
WVU 42 - Temple 21 / Pitt 27 - Temple 22
WVU 27 - Syracuse 6 / Pitt 31 - Syracuse 38
WVU 17 - BC 36 / Pitt 20 - BC 17
WVU - Eddie Jackson (Knee) Probable, Erick Phillips (Knee) Out, Josh Bailey (Shoulder) Out, Justin Dziak (Hamstring) Probable, Antonio Lewis(Ankle) Probable, Jason Colson (Ankle) Probable, Kay Jay Harris (Knee) Questionable
Pittsburgh - Princell Brockenbrough (Knee) Questionable, Jake Holthaus (Head) Questionable, H.B. Blades (Elbow) Questionable.
WVU offense vs. Pittsburgh defense
The West Virginia offense suffered a major blow on Monday as WVU's leading receiver, Chris Henry was suspended for the Pitt game. This will make Panther defensive coordinator, Paul Rhodes' life quite a bit easier on Thursday.
|WVU 8-2, 4-1
Pitt 6-3, 3-2
|Thurs 11/25 8:00 pm|
|Series: Pitt leads 58-35-3|
|BCS: WVU-23 BC-31|
|Line: WVU -4|
|Stats & Trends|
Defensive nose tackle Vince Crochunis (6-4, 290) has been the most productive defensive lineman for the Panthers this season. Crochunis, a senior, has posted 36 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in 2004. Teaming with Crochunis on the defensive front will be Dan Stephens (6-2, 295), Charles Sallet (6-0, 255) and Thomas Smith (6-4, 285). Stephens has recorded 23 stops, one sack and one pass breakup while Sallet and Smith, both defensive ends, have combined for 55 tackles and six quarterback sacks. The Panther defensive front has had problems stopping the run, so look for lots of early ground plays for the Mountaineers.
Leading the defensive backfield for the Panthers are cornerback Josh Lay (6-2, 195) and safety Tez Morris (5-10, 190). Lay, a junior, leads the team with three interceptions and is second on the team with 10 pass breakups. Morris, a hard hitting junior, is third on the team with 63 tackles and has been solid in run support.
Rounding out the backfield will be Tyrone Gilliard (5-11, 205) and Darrelle Revis (6-0, 180). Gilliard, a Princeton W. Va. native, has recorded 33 tackles while Revis leads the team with 11 pass breakups.
By the numbers:
WVU is ranked 25th in total offense (424.00 yds/game), 5th in rushing offense (258.30 yds/game) and 102nd in passing offense (165.70 yds/game).
Pittsburgh is ranked 76th in total defense (369.44 yds/game), 41st in rushing defense (131.56 yds/game) and 51st in passing efficiency defense (120.26 rating).
WVU defense vs. Pittsburgh offense
On the offensive side of the ball the Panthers have made steady improvement throughout the season, and for the Panther nation it is finally "Palko time". Sophomore quarterback Tyler Palko (6-2, 220) saved his best for Notre Dame a week ago as he passed for five touchdowns in a victory over the Irish. The Imperial, Pa. native has completed 57.8% of his passes (175-330) for 2240 yards including 18 touchdowns against only six interceptions.
Joining Palko is the backfield are tailback Raymond Kirkley (5-10, 225) and fullback Tim Murphy (5-10, 235). Kirkley is the Panther's leading ground gainer with 544 yards, an average of 60.4 per game. The junior has also scored six touchdowns on the ground and has 22 receptions on the season. Murphy has carried the ball 44 times for 139 yards, for an average of 3.2 yards per carry.
Replacing Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Lee (6-2, 200) has been a primary target for Palko. Lee leads the team in repections with 45 and in yardage with 927. The sophomore has reached the end zone six times on the season. Joining Lee at the wide receiver position will be Joel DelSardo (5-8, 200). DelSardo, a John Pennington-like player, has hauled in 35 passes for 402 yards and four touchdowns in 2004.
Starting at tight end for the Panthers will be Erik Gill (6-5, 270). Gill is third on the team with 22 catches for 297 yards and three touchdowns. Gill is a big target for Palko and looks to be a key weapon against the Mountaineers.
Leading the Panther offensive line is senior Rob Petitti (6-6, 335). Pettiti was named All Big East in 2003 and was named to the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists. Teaming with Petitti on the left side of the line is Charles Spencer (6-5, 330). Spencer was moved to the offensive side of the ball after playing the last two seasons on the defensive line.
Starting at center will be Justin Belarski (6-3, 295). The senior earned the starting position after solid spring and fall camps.
Manning the right side of the line will be John Simonitis (6-4, 315) and Mike McGlynn (6-5, 315). Simonitis is a talented guard that started last season as a freshman. McGlynn has an outstanding spring camp and earned the right tackle position over Matt Maiers. This group has provide good protection for Palko, but has struggled to establish much in the ground game.
By the numbers:
WVU is ranked 34th in total defense (330.60 yds/game), 35th in rushing defense (124.90 yds/game) and 32nd in passing efficiency defense (113.59).
Pittsburgh is ranked 72nd in total offense (360.33 yds/game), 101st in rushing offense (106.67 yds/game) and 26th in passing offense (253.67 yds/game).
Advantage: Slight edge to Pitt
WVU special teams vs. Pittsburgh special teams
If the Mountaineers expect to grab a win in the Steel City they will need to improve their play in the third phase of the game, special teams.
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Handling the punting duties will be Adam Graessle (6-4, 220). Graessle has had an outstanding year, averaging 44.3 yards per punt, but has had four of his attempts blocked. The sophomore has landed 16 of his 48 attempts inside the opponents 20 yard line.
The Panthers have struggled this season on punt returns, averaging only 4.87 yards per return, ranking 113th nationally. Returning Mountaineer punts will be Allen Richardson (5-11, 185). The freshman has averaged 3.6 yards on 29 returns during the season.
The kickoff return team has found more success than the punt return teams, averaging 21.36 yards as a team, ranking 42nd nationally. Leading the Panthers returnmen is Marcus Furman (5-9, 185) and Raymond Kirkley (5-10, 225). Furman has returned 16 kicks for an average of 26.3, including a 96-yard touchdown return against Nebrasksa. Kirkley has nine returns for 157 yards on the season.
By the numbers:
WVU is ranked 86th in net punting (33.80 yds/punt), 26th in kick returns (22.24 yds/return) and 14th in punt returns (14.23 yds/return).
Pittsburgh is ranked 65th in net punting (35.37 yds/punt), 42nd in kick returns (21.36 yds/return) and 113th in punt returns (4.87 yds/return)
Picks to Click:
On Offense: Rasheed Marshall
On Defense: Pac Man Jones
* 34% of Pittsburgh's roster is made up of seniors while the Mountaineers have only 16%.
* In 1908 Pittsburgh's players wore numbered jerseys for the first time. They were the first college team to do so.
* Pop Warner was the head coach at Pitt from 1915-1923 compiling a 59-11-4 record.
* One of the reasons that the Panther was picked as Pittsburgh's mascot was that no other college or university used this symbol at the time.
* The Panthers have produced 49 consensus All Americans. Yale has produced the most with 101.
Be sure to check out our Stats & Trends section for lots more match up information!
Just like rivalries normally are, this game is to close to call. There are so many different factor and angles to this matchup it will probably come down to something as unlikely as a "special" WVU special teams play, like a Brad Cooper field goal with 52 seconds left to go in the game.
Enjoy - this is going to be a wild one!
WVU - 52 Pittsburgh - 49