Mondesi's House, 11/28/07: "The PG takes a memorable look back at Pitt's 41-38, 3 OT upset of the Mountaineers in 1997. I can't wait for 2017, when the PG looks back at the 2007 Pitt upset of the national championship-bound WVU."
Mondesi's House, 11/26/07: "Other than myself and Dave Wannstedt, who else out there thinks Pitt's going to upset WVU?"
So thank you to the newly-extended Wannstache, thank you to Shady McCoy, and thank you to the Pitt Panthers. You made one of my extremely rare forays into prognostication a successful one. I'll be looking for that Paul Zeise article in '17.
Yes, some thought I was drunk at the keyboard by saying that Pitt could beat the Mountaineers. But the way this college season has gone, starting with Appalachian State and ending with the Brawl, didn't it just seem like the natural choice?
Let's face it...everything lined up for the Panthers to win this game. First of all, the line (28 points the last time I heard) was rather high, especially for a rivalry game. That was motivation factor #1 for the Fighting Staches. Second, I'm sure there was a speech along the lines of "You have a chance to shock the world tonight"...you know, for all of those fans in Bangladesh and Kazakhstan who didn't give Pitt a chance. And finally, Sir Limps a Lot got extended prior to the game, and his players surely wanted to show that the school made the right move. Plus, Pitt's bus got hit with rocks on the way to the stadium, which Shady McCoy pointed out to the team before the game by saying, "Hey, it's just like the movies."
I'd say that this was the most memorable Pitt game I've ever witnessed in my life. As far as a springboard into the offseason, there could be no better script. Momentum is fully on the Panthers' side. They just completed a compelling three-hour commercial for their program with the whole nation watching. They have an NFL-caliber tailback. They have a gaggle of injured, big-time players due back next season. And they have an extremely young team who surely believes in the system, a system now locked in through 2012.
I was on the edge of my seat the entire evening. Knowing how quick WVU's offense could strike, and knowing that Pitt was capable of giving up lots of points/yards lingered in the back of my mind until the clock hit 0:00. But it never happened. Despite the best efforts of the officials to keep the Mountaineers in the title game and the Big East in the National Championship, the Panthers somehow overcame that huge obstacle as well. They simply would not be denied.
When McCoy's touchdown came off the board and Conor Lee subsequently missed a field goal, I thought that would be the momentum-changer I feared. Wrong. When Noel Devine's long return set up the 'Eers in Pitt territory, with an emotional lift from the return of Pat White, I thought surely that would awaken West Virginia. But again I was incorrect. In fact, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Pitt's Paul Rhoads defense, which has been run over back to the days of Julius Jones and Kevin Jones, was not giving an inch. That 13-7 score kept looming/scaring me; with every bad call I envisioned this game ending up as a 14-13 heartbreaker. But that moment simply never arrived.
Pat White had 14 carries for 41 yards; Slaton totalled 11 yards on just nine carries; phenom Devine also ran for only 11 on seven carries. As a team, WVU ran 41 times for 104 yards, a whopping 2.5 yards per attempt. Were we watching an episode of The Twilight Zone? No, it was just the blueprint of Dave Wannstedt football finally coming to fruition.
Predictably, West Virginia was classless from all angles on Saturday. Starting with the rock shower of Pitt's bus and ending with Coach Rodriguez (of the Brian Billick Honorary Offensive Genius Category) blaming the loss on his team's failure to execute. No, Pitt's suffocating play had nothing to do with it. But I really enjoyed hearing Pitt's players celebrate in the background while you grasped for words at the podium. I presume no couches were harmed in the process.
To the Pitt players and to the much-maligned coaching staff, relish the attention. You deserve all of it. You've suffered through a number of embarrassing and tough moments the past few years. It's always exciting to turn the tables, especially on your arch rival.
--Everyone who's blaming the WVU loss on Pat White's injury...save it. Have some class and give credit where it is due, especially since White generated zero offense when he was healthy.
Pitt has played without their original starting quarterback the entire season. Heck, they're still so conservative with the kid that the run/pass ratio was 52 runs to 19 throws. But he made plays when he had to.
--Your heart had to go out to poor Oderick Turner, who was unfairly flagged not once, but twice on crucial plays. Phantom holding calls on the receiver wiped out McCoy's touchdown as well as a huge third-down conversion down the stretch. For Turner's mental health alone, it was an important win for Pitt.
--Who else enjoyed the VERY audible Dave Wannstedt saying, "That's a bulls***" call on national TV?
--Every ESPN announcer I heard, from the game to SportsCenter to their college wrapup show, was very critical of the officiating. Nice to know we're not imagining things.
--Did anyone catch Lou Holtz' motivational speech to the Panthers on ESPN earlier in the week? Was that the spark that put the Panthers over the top? Of course not, but it's always funny to see Holtz get worked up.
Links you should read:
On-field and Locker Room Celebrations [Pitt Blather]
Screenshot Happiness [Pitt Blather]
Pitt scripts one last outrageous twist to crazy '07 season (with video) [ESPN/Pat Forde]
Pitt brawls its way to victory on the strength of its defense [Post Gazette/Paul Zeise]
Pitt shatters WVU's national title hopes [Trib/Rick Starr]