Key Moment - Pitt

Many would argue the key moment to West Virginia's 45-13 win over rival Pitt was when the Mountaineers inked redshirt freshman quarterback Pat White nearly three years ago. The signal caller ran for a school and Big East-record 220 rushing yards for a quarterback and scored two touchdowns while throwing for another. Still, BlueGoldNews.com went to the other side of the ball for our final home game award this year.

West Virginia's defense caused consecutive turnovers on Pitt's first two drives of the second half. But when the Mountaineer offense mustered just three points with two short fields (40 yards both drives), WVU, ahead just 24-13, had to again make a big defensive play to prevent the Panthers from pulling back into the game.

Pitt placekicker Josh Cummings missed his 44-yard field goal in the third quarter when he slipped on the frozen AstroPlay surface. The resulting WVU score on the next drive forced Pitt to answer or lose. The Mountaineer defense ensured it was the latter.

The Panthers drove inside the WVU red zone before West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel used a pair of well-disguised blitzes that harassed quarterback Tyler Palko and caused two incompletions that effectively ended any Pitt threat.

On the first, WVU bandit Eric Wicks slowly approached the right side of the Panther line on third and six from the WVU 15 before crouching down late and hiding himself. On the snap, the Pittsburgh native easily split the baffled line and drilled Palko as he let the ball go.

"Palko is good at stepping up in the pocket," Wicks said. "When I came off I wanted to get to him and make sure I held on to him. When he got the ball off, I was upset. I think he saw me because he was watching it before the play. He tried to tell the blocker to block me, but he didn't. I just came free and got him."

That led to fourth down, when a six-man rush caused Palko to throw over the middle. Cornerback Dee McCann locked onto the football and broke up the last meaningful pass Palko would throw during Pitt's first losing season since 1999.

West Virginia went on to score 21 fourth quarter points – seven off an interception when Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt should not have been throwing with less than two minutes left – and seal its third consecutive Big East title and fourth overall.

It might seem a little strange to ignore any of White's amazing scampers on a night when he snapped former Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick's Big East quarterback rushing record (210 versus Boston College in 2000). But it was WVU's defense that held Pitt when the team most needed it and set up the No. 12 Mountaineers in a showdown contest against South Florida Dec. 3 for the outright Big East championship and the school's first BCS berth.


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