The 104th Backyard Brawl, like so many others, was a close one. West Virginia came out on top, winning a close game 21-20 in Morgantown.
For much of the game, Pitt appeared to be in charge. They led 14-0 and had a 20-7 lead in the third quarter. But West Virginia was able to score two second-half touchdowns on their way to victory. For Pitt, it was much of the same story this season – a second half collapse and virtually no offense late in the game.
The Mountaineers all but tried to hand the game to Pitt, turning the ball over three times (two on botched punt returns) and for a while, the Panthers seemed to oblige. But despite having the ball for more than 36 minutes to West Virginia’s nearly 24, Pitt found it hard scoring points in the second half, getting only a field goal.
If there’s one thing that did Pitt in, it may have been the fact they had to settle for two field goals deep in West Virginia territory. Pitt was twice inside the Mountaineers’ 15-yard line, but ended up taking the three points. In hindsight, we can see that Pitt should have gone for a first down on at least one of those occasions, but in the flow of the game, it’s hard to fault Todd Graham for taking those points. At the time, each one extended Pitt’s lead by more than a touchdown and with the way the defense was playing, it made all the sense in the world to try to pad the margin.
Another problem for the Panthers was the fact that they were heavily penalized (nine penalties for 60 yards). Todd Graham has preached that the team will be a disciplined one off the field, but on it, the team has had far too many mental miscues.
And if you need further evidence of just how bad Pitt’s offense was for the most part, look no further than the fact that they had to punt an incredulous ten times.
Pitt now will shift their attention from a potential BCS berth to simply trying to make a bowl game. The Panthers are sitting at 5-6 and must win against Syracuse next week to even become bowl eligible. The Mountaineers, on the other hand, still have a shot at the BCS game if a few things break their way.
For more on Pitt, check out SB Nation blog Cardiac Hill.
For more on West Virginia, stop by SB Nation’s Smoking Musket.