Mountaineers cap perfect November
Walking off the field after an overtime loss at Connecticut on Oct. 29, West Virginia wanted to do one thing.
The Mountaineers, who had just lost back-to-back Big East games to fall into last in the conference, wanted to "Remember November."
Since that point, West Virginia (8-3, 4-2) has won three straight games, capped by Friday's 35-10 rout of rival Pitt (6-5, 4-2) in the 103rd Backyard Brawl.
"I knew we could do it," senior linebacker J.T. Thomas said. "Everyone knows we have talent at West Virginia. That's no secret. I'm glad we were able to come together in time before we lost our second chance."
The Mountaineers are still alive in the Big East title race and have a shot to make their first BCS bowl game since the 2007 season. To secure the BCS bowl bid and the Big East title, West Virginia must beat Rutgers on Dec. 4 and hope Connecticut loses to Cincinnati today or South Florida next weekend.
"If it's meant to happen, it's meant to happen," said receiver Tavon Austin, who had two touchdown catches against Pitt. "We just have to focus on what we have to do."
Yesterday's victory nearly ended Pitt's chance at the Big East title. The Panthers need West Virginia and UConn to lose out to win a share of the conference.
"It feels really good to beat them badly. It wasn't a close game at all. We really put our foot down," Thomas said. "I was happy for our team, and as a senior, I couldn't have asked for anything else."
West Virginia used its defense, big plays and a strong second-half running game to defeat Pitt for the second year in the row. The Mountaineers' fourth-ranked scoring defense did the job again, holding the Panthers to three points in the second half. West Virginia remains the only team in the country to hold all of its opponents under 21 points.
The defense set up West Virginia's first touchdown with an interception by cornerback Brandon Hogan that he returned to the Pitt 2-yard line. Fullback Ryan Clarke scored on the Mountaineers' first play from scrimmage to make it 7-0.
"That's a championship defense right there," receiver Jock Sanders said. "We've got one of the best defenses in the country, and that helps us. This year, we've been feeding off the defense."
In the second half, quarterback Geno Smith and Austin connected twice for touchdowns.
"To have a guy like Tavon makes it so hard on the defense because they know that any game he can have a big game," Smith said.
When the Mountaineers went up by 14 in the second half, they focused their ground game on fullback Ryan Clarke and big running back Shawne Alston. West Virginia called 12 straight running plays before a 12-yard pass from Smith to Austin made it 28-10. Clarke added another touchdown in the fourth quarter to set the final margin.
Alston and Clarke combined for 22 carries and 99 yards.
Pitt vs. WVU The Backyard Brawl 11/26/10
West Virginia defeats Pitt, 35-10, in the 103rd Backyard Brawl Friday November 26, 2010 at Heinz Field.