WVU vs Pitt Game Preview

The 2002 edition of the Backyard Brawl takes place in the Panthers' backyard, but the Mountaineers look to feel right at home.

Series: Pittsburgh leads series 58-33-3.

Common Opponents: Boston College, Rutgers, Temple, Miami, Syracuse, Virginia Tech - WVU 5-1 , Pitt 5-1.

Hit the Road with the Mountaineers

Panthers to watch:
QB- Rod Rutherford, WR-Larry Fitzgerald, P-Andy Lee, K-David Abdul, DB-Shawntee Spence, DB- Torri Cox, WR- Lamar Slade, RB- Brandon Miree, OL- Bryan Anderson, LB- Gerald Hayes, LB -Lewis Moore.

Injuries:
WVU - Ernest Hunter (Leg) Out, Ben Timmons (Neck) Out, Miquelle Henderson (Ankle) Doubtful, Ken Sandor (Ankle) Probable, Grant Wiley (Rib) Probable.

Panthers - Tyree Young (Ankle) Out, Corey Humphries (knee) Out, Gary Urschler (knee) Out.

Game outlook:

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Game Info
WVU 5-1, 8-3
Pitt 5-1, 8-3
Sat. 11/30 1:00 pm
Heinz Field
Series: Pitt 58-33-3
TV: ABC
AP: WVU-24 Pitt-17
Line: Pitt -2.5
Stats & Trends
WVU offense vs. Panther defense

While the Miami Hurricanes may possess the most individually talented defense in the Big East, the Panthers will pose the strongest test for the Mountaineer offensive attack this year. Pitt has allowed only 17.7 points per game, while the WVU offensive has total 31.8 points per contest. The winner of this match up will win the Backyard Brawl.

The Panther defense is lead by middle linebacker Gerald Hayes (6-3 245 Sr), Pittsburgh's version of Grant Wiley. Hayes has dominated opposing offenses by racking up 113 tackles (80 unassisted), 2 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. He has the size and speed the NFL teams are looking for and you can bet he will be playing on Sundays next season. Lewis Moore (6-2 245 Jr) and Brian Beinecke (6-1 230 Sr) round out the Panther linebacking corps. Moore and Beinecke, 3rd and 4th respectively on the team in tackles, have combined for 147 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks and 3 interceptions. This trio of backers all have the abilities to rush the passer, pursue running backs from sideline to sideline and drop back into pass coverage.

Pittsburgh's defensive backfield is led by Torrie Cox (5-10 185 Sr) in experience and by Tez Morris (5-10 185 Fr) in tackles. Cox has totaled 68 tackles while intercepting two passes and breaking up 13 pass attempts. In his first year, Morris is the team's second leading tackler and has the speed and ability to attack the quarterback on a safety blitz. The blitz could allow big gains if Morris is picked up or over pursues Avon Cobourne or Quincy Wilson. Shawn Robinson (6-1 190 Sr), the unit's only other senior, plays cornerback in defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads' 4-3 scheme. Robinson is not as active as Pitt's other backs but he has managed 9 pass break-ups this year. Splitting time with Robinson will be Shawntae Spencer (6-2 175 Jr). Spencer adds size to the position and is the team leader with 3 interceptions. Rounding out the defensive backfield is second year player and West Virginia native Tyrone Gilliard (5-11, 190 So). Gilliard has had a productive season, recording 44 tackles, 1 sack and 4 pass break-ups.

Perhaps the key to the Panther success has been the defensive line. The unit is lead by redshirt junior Claude Harriott (6-4 255 JR). Harriott has been a menace to opposing offenses by totaling 61 tackles and is the team leader with 6.5 sacks. Harriott is also tied for the team lead with 15 tackles for a loss, so the Mountaineer offensive line will need to know exactly where Harriott is positioned on every play. Pitt's other defensive end is Brain Guzek (6-2 255 Sr). Guzek is experienced and has improved every year as a Panther. He has recorded 53 tackles, 5 sacks and leads the team with 12 quarterback hurries. The men in the middle for Pittsburgh are Vince Crochunis (6-4 285 So) and Dan Stephens (6-2 285 So). Crochunis and Stephens have done an excellent job in taking up blocks and allowing the linebackers to attack the runners. This duo has combined for 105 tackles and 4 fumble recoveries.

By the numbers:

WVU ranks 19th in total offense (418.36 yds/game), 2nd in rushing offense (292.0 yds/game) and 110th in passing offense (126.2 yds/game).

Panthers rank 8th in total defense (285.64 yds/game), 25th in rushing defense (117.1 yds/game) and 11th in passing efficiency defense (95.76 rating).

Advantage: Pitt

WVU defense vs. Panther offense

Coming off an remarkable effort against Virginia Tech last Wednesday, the Mountaineer defense goes toe to toe with a diverse Panther offense. Offensive coordinator J.D. Brookhart has spread the ball around the season. Quarterback Rod Rutherford (6-3 220 Jr) has connected with 13 different receivers, while nine different players have run the ball for the Panthers. Rutherford is big, athletic and offers opposing defenses a challenge every week. The Panther QB has connected on 52.1% of his passes (162-311), 19 of them resulting in touchdowns. His passing efficiency is 129.24 which ranks 38th nationally. However, Rutherford has been known to make bad throws on occasion, which have resulted in 10 interceptions.

One advantage that Rutherford holds over other college quarterbacks is All-World receiver Larry Fitzgerald (6-3 210 Fr). The freshman receiver has dominated opposing defensive backs with his size, speed and ability to make circus catches. Fitzgerald has pulled in 53 passes for 758 yards and nine TD's. Rounding out the Panther receiver corps is Lamar Slade (6-4 210 Sr) and tight end Kris Wilson (6-3 240 Jr). Slade averages over 50 yards per game and has teamed up with Rutherford for 4 TD's. Wilson is not your typical big, bruising tight end and has only caught 15 passes, but leads the team in average yards per catch with 23.1 yards.

Toting the rock for the Panthers has been Brandon Miree (6-0 235 Jr). Miree is big and very tough to bring down. He has averaged 4.2 yards per carry this year while finding the endzone only 3 times. Miree, who only averages 64.5 yards per game which ranks him behind Cobourne and Wilson, is nevertheless a punishing back that will be a factor on Saturday.

By the numbers:

WVU ranks 24th in total defense (320.27 yds/game), 20th in rushing defense (108.5 yds/game) and 34th in passing efficiency defense (110.35 rating).

Panthers rank 84th in total offense (355.36 yds/game), 66th in rushing offense (140.73 yds/game) and 60th in passing (214.6 yds/game).

Advantage: WVU

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