Preview: The Backyard Brawl

With a BCS bowl bid and the Big East championship tucked away, the Mountaineers look for a chance at the Sears Trophy with a victory over the Panthers.






BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Series: Pitt 37-59-3
Sat 12/1/07 7:45 PM
Morgantown, WV

Milan Puskar Stadium
Record: 10-1
BCS: 2nd
Last Game
UConn W 66-21

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast
Record: 4-7
BCS : 76th
Last Game
USF L 48-37
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2007 Schedule
First Meeting: 1895
Last Meeting: 2006
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2007 Schedule

Injuries:

WVU: James Ingram (Back) Out, Thor Merrow (Back) Questionable, Ellis Lankster (Wrist) Will Play

Pitt: Nate Byham (Knee) Out

Game Outlook:

WVU offense vs. Pitt defense

The Pitt defense has been much better than last season, and is lead by junior middle linebacker Scott McKillop (6-2, 240). The Keystone State native leads the nation with 13 tackles per contest. McKillop has totaled 142 stops, eight tackles for losses, three sacks and seven pass break-ups through eleven games. If the Mountaineers are to be successful in the rushing game, they will have to put a helmet on McKillop throughout the game.

Rounding out the linebacking corps will be Adam Gunn (6-2, 230) and Shane Murray (6-1, 210). Gunn and Murray are second and third on the team in tackles with a combined 113 stops, including nine tackles behind the line, 4.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries.

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Game Info
WVU 10-1, 6-1
Pitt 4-7, 2-4
Sat 12/1/07 7:45 PM
Milan Puskar Stadium
Series: Pitt 59-37-3
TV: ESPN
Mike Patrick - play-by-play,
Todd Blackledge - analysis

Holly Rowe - sideline
USA: WVU - 1st, Pitt - NR
Line: WVU -28
On the Panthers' four-man defensive front, left defensive end Joe Clermond (6-3, 250) has been the most dominating. The senior has amassed 46 tackles, and leads the team with 11.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and nine quarterback hurries. Clermond was named to the second team All-Big East squad in 2006 and was named a preseason candidate for the Bednarik Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy, both presented to the nation's top defensive player. He also garnered a spot on the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award watch list prior to this season.

Joining Clermond in the trenches will be Earnest Williams (6-1, 290), Rashaad Duncan (6-2, 290) and Chris McKillop (6-3, 265), older brother of Scott McKillop. The trio has combined for 107 tackles, six sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. The Pitt defensive line, which was pushed around for the past couple of seasons, has been much more effective this year, and should provide a better challenge to the WVU offense.

The Pitt secondary has been very good this season, leading the Panthers to the seventh-ranked pass defense in the country. Strong safety Mike Phillips (5-11, 200) has led the defensive backfield with 49 tackles while recording one interception and thee pass break-ups. Joining Phillips at safety is junior Eric Thatcher (5-9, 195). The Ohio native has registered 48 tackles and three pass break-ups this season.

Manning the cornerback positions will be Kennard Cox (6-1, 195) and Aaron Berry (5-11, 175). Cox, a four-year letterman, has one interception to go along with 32 tackles, while Berry has been trying to fill the shoes vacated by first-round NFL Draft pick Darrelle Revis. The sophomore has done a good job in that regard, and leads the team with two interceptions and has racked up five pass break-ups.

By The Numbers :
WVU is ranked 11th in total offense (474.82 yds/game), second in rushing offense (310.09 yds/game) and 112th in passing offense (164.73 yds/game)

Pitt is ranked 11th in total defense (308.09 yds/game), 41st in rushing defense (132.82 yds/game) and seventh in passing defense (175.27 yds/game).

Advantage: WVU

WVU defense vs. Pitt offense

The Panther offense has struggled this season with the graduation of quarterback Tyer Palko and the season ending injury to All-Conference wide receiver Derek Kinder. Head coach Dave Wannstedt and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh have used three quarterbacks this season trying to jump start the offense with only mariginal returns.

True freshman Pat Bostick (6-3, 230) in the latest signal caller to have been used, along with Kevan Smith and Bill Stull. Stull was knocked out in the season's first game, leaving Smith, who had little experience, and Bostick, a true freshman, at the controls. Bostick has been impressive at times, but not unlike most freshman, he has made his share of mistakes. The Pennslyvania native has connected on 62.2% (145-233) of his passes for 1433 yards along with eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

The best decision made by any of the Panther quarterbacks this season has been to hand the ball to freshman running back LeSean McCoy (5-11, 210). McCoy has had an outstanding season, averaging 107.3 yards per game along with 15 touchdowns. McCoy is also a threat in the passing game, with 32 receptions for 234 yards.

Leading the team in receptions is T.J Porter (6-1, 185) with 35 receptions for 327 yards for an average of 9.3 yards per catch. Other receiving targets will be Oderick Turner (6-3, 200) and Darrell Strong (6-5, 265). The duo has combined for 60 receptions for 1070 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Panthers' offensive line has been anchored by fourth-year starter Mike McGlynn (6-5, 315). Against West Virginia, McGlynn will be making his 43rd start of his career. Joining McGlynn is left tackle Jeff Otah (6-6, 340), C.J Davis (6-3, 315), Chris Vangas (6-2, 310) and Joe Thomas (6-5, 300). The big line has succeeded in clearing some holes for McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling, and has given Pitt a respectable chance to run the football.

By The Numbers :
WVU is ranked sixth in total defense (298.00 yds/game), 13th in rushing defense (103.00 yds/game) and 15th in passing defense (195.00 yds/game).

Pitt is ranked 101st in total offense (328.09 yds/game), 73rd in rushing offense (139.91 yds/game) and 99th in passing offense (188.18 yds/game).

Advantage: WVU

WVU special teams vs. Pitt special teams

The top performer this season for the Panthers has been starting place kicker Conor Lee (5-11, 195). Lee has connected on 16 of 19 field goals and all 27 extra point attempts in 2007. The junior's only misses have come from 42, 42 and 31 yards.

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Handling punting duties for Pitt will be Dave Brytus (6-4, 230). The Purdue transfer has averaged 40.0 yards on 60 attempts with 44 punts being touchbacks, fair caught, or downed inside the 20-yard line.

Returning punts and kickoffs for Pittsburgh will be starting cornerback Berry and Lowell Robinson (6-0, 200), respectively. Berry, a sophomore, has averaged 8.6 yards on 23 punt returns with a long of 53 yards. Robinson, a speedy junior college transfer, is averaging 24.8 yards on 37 returns with a long of 64 yards.

By The Numbers :
WVU is ranked 36th in net punting (36.59 yds/punt), 47th in kick returns (21.88 yds/return) and 28th in punt returns (11.29 yds/return).

Pitt is ranked 67th in net punting (34.82 yds/punt), 28th in kick returns (23.12 yds/return) and 48th in punt returns (9.46 yds/return)

Advantage: WVU

Picks to Click:

On Offense: Patrick White

On Defense: Reed Williams

Prediction:

The 100th edition of the Backyard Brawl could be a very special one for the Mountaineers, as a national championship game is on the line. For the 4-7 Panthers, most of the dissapointments of the 2007 season could be forgotten by ruining WVU's dreams of the Sears Trophy.

While Bostick and McCoy may give the Mountaineers fits over the next few seasons, they will have to take a back seat this year, as the Blue and Gold will shine under the bright lights at Milan Puskar Stadium.

WVU - 52 UP - 25


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