Primetime College Football: Panthers vs Mounties
Pittsburgh’s shocking upset of West Virginia in Morgantown two years ago was a positive end to an otherwise disappointing season. There have been few low points for the Panthers since.
Pittsburgh will try to avoid looking too far ahead when it visits West Virginia on Friday night in the 102nd meeting of the teams’ intense rivalry. Pittsburgh (9-1, 5-0 Big East) attention is focused on their annual showdown with the Mountaineers, a game often referred to as the “Backyard Brawl.”
Pitt has won the last two meetings with West Virginia (7-3, 3-2), including a 13-9 victory in Morgantown in 2007, which kept the Mountaineers from playing for the national title.
Coach Dave Wannstedt acknowledges the Panthers’ 2007 win over the Mountaineers as a turning point for his program. Pittsburgh had come into that game 4-7. In the two years since, the Panthers have gone 18-5, and they have been a consistent presence in the Top 25.
West Virginia, meanwhile, saw coach Rich Rodriguez leave two weeks after that upset defeat. The Mountaineers went 9-4 under Bill Stewart last season and have spent only two weeks in the rankings this season. This is the first time since 2003 that the teams have met with the Panthers in the Top 25 and the Mountaineers unranked.
Dion Lewis, the freshman running back leads the Big East with 129.1 rushing yards per game. Lewis needs only 38 more yards to surpass Pitt’s LeSean McCoy for the Big East’s freshman rushing mark.
Handing off the ball to Lewis is quarterback Bill Stull, has silenced doubters with his effective play this season. Stull has completed an efficient 66.3 percent of his pass attempts and has thrown 18 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions. Stull’s favorite targets are wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin and tight end Dorin Dickerson. Baldwin is obviously the deep threat, catching 40 balls for 840 yards, while Dickerson is a red zone target, with 10 of his 43 catches resulting in a touchdown.
The Mountaineers are sure to test Pitt’s run defense, as they are churning out 183.5 ypg on the ground this season. WVU is averaging 4.8 yards per carry and has scored 23 of its 35 offensive touchdowns on the ground.
The speedy and elusive Noel Devine leads the run game, although the 5-8, 176- pounder has been slowed by some minor injuries of late. Still, Devine has enjoyed a standout campaign with 1,098 yards and 10 scores, and his 5.7 yard per carry average is indicative of his explosiveness.
Helping to take some of the pressure off Devine is quarterback Jarrett Brown, who has proved too be an effective runner in his own right, gaining 366 yards and five scores on the ground. Brown has had success with his arm as well, hitting on 65.1 percent of his tosses with 11 more touchdowns. Jock Sanders is clearly the favorite target of Brown, as his 62 catches are nearly double the next closest player on the roster.
Friday is West Virginia’s final home game. It’s trying to go undefeated in Morgantown for the first time since 1993.
PICK: University of Pittsburgh Panthers