In a crushing defeat for the Mountaineers, Pitt defeated West Virginia 19-15 in the 101st edition of the Backyard Brawl. West Virginia once again got off to a slow start, showing no offensive zip in trailing 7-3 at halftime. The Mountaineers seemed to have the game under control at 15-7 early in the fourth quarter, but then Patrick White was intercepted by Pitt's Jovani Chappel and everything seemed to go down hill from there.
Offensively West Virginia struggled against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and played well against Louisville. My first thought was West Virginia needs to gain consistency, but while leaving Louisville's Papa John's Cardinal Stadium I overheard a Cardinal fan say, "Nothing says get well like the Louisville defense." Against Louisville, West Virginia's line was able to get some push and create some holes, but against better defenses like Pitt's and Cincinnati's, the Mountaineers have been stifled. Pitt's defense may be good, but it is not the Pittsburgh Steelers'. For Noel Devine to gain only 17 yards on 12 carries really highlights the problem.
Continuing on this theme, West Virginia's inability to move the ball on short yard packages is simply the worst I've seen in 26 years. The offense's best play is to have the second team quarterback run the ball. I believe this more than just not having a big back like Own Schmitt to run the ball. In many cases opposing defenses are getting good penetration and hitting West Virginia's back before they hit the line of scrimmage. I could understand this if West Virginia's line was young and inexperienced, but this a very experienced line.
I realize players are young college students and that they are athletes trying to make plays, but when wide receiver Wes Lyons failed to get of bounds on the last drive, there's no excuse for it. That was simply the last of a long line of mental errors that have hurt this year's team.
Other than Pat McAfee and the punt team, WVU's special teams have not been productive at all. Not only do the Mountaineers rank poorly in kickoff return yardage allowed, but they also have not been able to get any good returns on punts or kick-offs to give the team a little boost. In terms of field position, West Virginia pinned Pitt back on its three-yard line in the first quarter, but other than that it seemed Pitt was consistently getting the ball in great field position. The Panthers started drives at their 36, 37, 36, 34, 48, 35, 36, 31, and 41 yard lines. Only twice did the Panthers have poor field position (their own three- and 18-yard lines) to start possessions.
Gang, this was a tough loss and everyone including the team and the fans need to regroup for the South Florida game. How will the Mountaineers react? The Bulls have a two- game winning streak against WVU, and the Gold and Blue need to get this one in order to keep the season respectable. See you next Saturday in Morgantown.