LeSean McCoy rushed for a career-high 183 yards and two touchdowns, including a 1-yarder with 52 seconds remaining, to lead Pitt to a 19-15 victory over West Virginia in the 101st Backyard Brawl today before an announced crowd of 63,019 at Heinz Field.
Tickets for the game were sold out, Pitt’s first since the 2005 opener.
The victory was Pitt’s second consecutive in the series – last season’s 13-9 victory in Morgantown cost the Mountaineers a shot at playing for the BCS national championship – and increased its all-time lead to 61-37-3.
This time, Pitt (8-3, 4-2) cost West Virginia (7-4, 4-2) a share of the Big East Conference title. Cincinnati can clinch Saturday with a victory over Syracuse.
West Virginia had a final scoring chance after Pat White completed passes of 24 yards to Bradley Starks and 13 yards to Alric Arnett to the Pitt 27, but White’s next two passes fell incomplete and Wes Lyons was called for pass interference on a fourth-down fade as time expired.
After saying that this wouldn’t be his final Backyard Brawl, McCoy had eight carries for 51 yards on the final drive, which covered 59 yards on 10 plays. He ripped off runs of 3, 9, 14, 16, 2 and 6 yards before a no gain prior to the scoring run.
His previous career high was 172 rushing yards at Michigan State last year.
The turning point came when Pitt cornerback Jovani Chappel intercepted a White pass at the 30 and returned it 14 yards to the West Virginia 16 with 8:39 remaining. McCoy ripped off an 11-yard run, then scored on a 5-yarder to cut it to 15-13 with 8:07 left.
The Panthers attempted a two-point conversion, but a flag nullified Bill Stull’s pass to Jonathan Baldwin and pushed Pitt back to the 8. The second attempt ended when Stull ran a designed draw but was stopped near the line of scrimmage.
White’s 64-yard touchdown run gave the Mountaineers their first lead, 12-7, with 6:05 remaining in the third quarter. On a third-and-4, White rolled left but reversed field and eluded several Panthers to sprint along the West Virginia sidelines untouched. West Virginia’s point-after attempt failed when a bad snap forced holder Carmen Connolly to run the ball.
Stull committed his third turnover of the game when Brandon Hogan intercepted his pass and returned it 11 yards to the Pitt 44 to set up Pat McAfee’s third field goal, a 40-yarder for a 15-7 lead.
The Panthers scored on their opening drive of the game, a five-play, 64-yard drive highlighted by a 28-yard pass to tight end Nate Byham and capped by Stull’s 30-yard scoring pass to Derek Kinder for a 7-0 lead at 12:50.
On Pitt’s second possession, the Panthers drove to the WVU 9 before losing 8 yards on two plays and drawing a 10-yard holding penalty on another. Conor Lee then missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt wide left.
That’s when turnovers started to sting the Panthers.
Backup strong-side linebacker John Holmes stripped the ball from Stull while in throwing motion, causing a fumble that was recovered by defensive end Scooter Berry at the Pitt 39.
On the ensuing play, Jock Sanders broke a 29-yard run. Sanders followed with a 9-yard reception to the 1-yard line. But safety Eric Thatcher dropped Pat White for a 2-yard loss on second down.
On third down, the Mountaineers used a trick play that saw backup Jarrett Brown take the snap with White lined up in the slot. White then motioned left, took the handoff and threw a fade to 6-foot-7 Wes Lyons in the back corner of the end zone. The pass was ruled incomplete, as replays showed Lyons controlled the ball, but his left foot hit the pylon and his right foot landed out of bounds.
McAfee’s field goal with 4:27 left cut it to 7-3.
Quinton Andrews intercepted a Bill Stull pass in the end zone with 19 seconds remaining in the first half, the second turnover forced by the Mountaineers’ defense in the second quarter.
West Virginia opened the second half with a 14-play, 59-yard drive but the Mountaineers had to settle for a Pat McAfee 26-yard field goal that cut it to 7-6 with 9:42 remaining in the third quarter.