Starkey: The miracle of 13-9
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Ex-Pitt linebacker Scott McKillop might be the most polite, politically correct athlete I've covered.
Until somebody mentions 13-9.
The pre-game scene is seared onto McKillop's psyche. He remembers West Virginia fans hurling beer cans and insults at the Pitt bus as it pulled up to Milan Puskar Stadium on Dec. 1, 2007. He recalls West Virginia players telling him where they would be staying for the national championship game.
All the Mountaineers had to do was win — and they were 28-point favorites. Post-game fireworks shows were planned throughout the state.
That is why, when he runs into West Virginia fans and former players, McKillop goes out of his way to nudge 13-9 into the conversation.
As in: Pitt 13, West Virginia 9.
"I like to reiterate the fact that we basically ruined their whole entire college career," he says. "Nothing brings me more pleasure than when I say, '13-9.' The face they give me is just priceless."
He was just warming up.
"You can't say it when you play, because you give them bulletin-board material, but I (expletive) hate West Virginia. I can't stand the state. I just don't like that university. I guess now you can print me saying it."
I guess I just did.
And I still can't believe Pitt won.
Having witnessed Sidney Crosby's comeback Monday night, Mario Lemieux's mind-blowing return from retirement and Ben Roethlisberger's tackle in Indianapolis, I must say: None of it matches 13-9 on the implausibility meter.
In the previous two Backyard Brawls, West Virginia had totaled 1,133 yards and 90 points. A week earlier, it dropped 66 points on UConn, as Pitt was falling to 4-7 with a 48-37 loss to USF.
West Virginia stars Pat White, Steve Slaton & Co. would score 48 against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. But on this night they would manage all of seven offensive points and 183 yards on 3.2 yards per play.
I'm not sure the Miracle on Ice was more improbable.
Pitt's quarterback was true freshman Pat Bostick. He recounts his experience with hilarious humility. The Panthers stayed in Washington, Pa., the night before the game. Bostick woke up with blood on his pillow. Wicked ear infection.
"Here I am, a freshman, probably not ready to play. I'm sick, and I'm going into West Virginia," recalls Bostick, now Pitt's radio analyst. "I was thinking, 'This is set up for disaster.' When I threw a pick on the first play, that just confirmed my feelings."
What settled him?
"After my second pick, I said, 'Well, it can't get any worse; let's just manage the game.' We drew inspiration from our defense."
Pitt played a risky blitzing scheme with a single high safety. West Virginia never adjusted.
"We ran one and only one defense the whole second half," McKillop says. "I don't know if that fact is out there. I guess I'll spill the beans. We had one adjustment based on where the running back lined up. I was thinking, 'Are they ever going to pick up on this?' "
Two days after the game, I sat down with then-defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads and reviewed video of the massacre. He showed me both of Pitt's missed tackles (yes, there were only two).
Now coach at Iowa State, Rhoads used 13-9 as motivation for his team — a 27-point underdog — against No. 2 Oklahoma State last weekend.
Iowa State scored a 37-31 upset. On their drive home, Rhoads and his wife listened to a voice message from long-time Pitt assistant Bob Junko. Several other Pitt people — including McKillop — sent congratulatory texts.
Rhoads holds a special place for 13-9.
"The best of my memories from my time at Pitt," he says.
Though busily preparing for Oklahoma, Rhoads talked for 10 minutes about Dec. 1, 2007. He was about to hang up when he quickly added, "If I remember correctly, it was the 100th edition. I love rivalry games. Hail to Pitt."
McKillop is in town rehabbing a knee injury and hoping to get back in the NFL. The 49ers released him in August. He watched the Iowa State upset with ex-teammates Austin Ransom and Adam Gunn.
The three could relate to Iowa State's locker-room celebration. They'd enjoyed a similar one four years earlier, not knowing only a wall separated them from where West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez was delivering perhaps the most tortured post-game media address of all-time.
"I remember watching that on YouTube, and you can hear us in the background," McKillop says. "We had no intentions of making the noise heard into RichRod's news conference. You can see it bothers him a little bit.
"If we would have known, I'm sure we would have been 10 times louder."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Five questions facing Steelers entering training camp
- Steelers cut linebacker Kion Wilson, sign cornerback Toler
- North Huntingdon woman charged with threatening to burn down officer’s house
- Pirates’ Melancon has been consistent since moving into closer’s role
- 2014 has been among deadliest for the world’s airline industry
- Well-traveled Clemons trying to find home with Carolina Panthers
- Amazon.com distribution center planned for Pittsburgh’s West End
- Aliquippa father is charged by Beaver County DA in girls’ dresser death
- Friday’s scouting report: Pirates at Rockies
- Heyl: Gravy train comes to an abrupt halt for Pa. judges’ relatives
- New workout craze Piloxing combines mix of disciplines