West Virginia trailed Pitt for more than 46 minutes Friday, but took the lead for good on Shawne Alston's second touchdown run with 6:10 left to play as the Mountaineers won the 104th Backyard Brawl, 21-20.
"It was pretty fun," Coach Dana Holgorsen said after his first game against the rival Panthers. "I don't have a voice. Fun. Good atmosphere. Gosh dang, that was fun. The sideline was unbelievable and obviously feeding off the crowd. The crowd got going in the second half. It was loud and rowdy and a lot of fun for the players. They had a great time down there.
"It's more about them than it is me or any of the coaches and any of that, but I had a tremendous amount of fun. Everyone in the locker room and especially the seniors, this is one they're going to remember. It was a great atmosphere and a big-time win."
A Mountaineer Field crowd of 60,932 saw WVU fall behind 14-0 in the first quarter and fight all the way back, but also make a series of errors in between. The Panthers had two chances late and first drove to the WVU 46-yard line, but Bruce Irvin sacked Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri for an eight-yard loss on third-and-5.
After a WVU punt, the Panthers nearly turned the ball over on downs, but Sunseri just barely got the first down on a sneak on fourth-and-1 at the Pitt 43.
The game ended three plays later and was helped along when defensive tackle Julian Miller pressured Sunseri into an intentional grounding penalty on first down. It cost Pitt eight yards and 10 seconds. Sunseri was sacked again on the next play by Najee Goode and then lost the ball on when Irvin sacked him on the game's final play.
The Mountaineers, who entered the game No. 89 nationally with 16 sacks, finished with 10 sacks. Miller, playing on his birthday and in his final home game, tied a school record with four.
"We got tired of being criticized," Miller said. "One thing we actually heard was their offensive line called our defensive line soft. We took it personally. That's one thing we took into the game and they came out and thought they were going to overpower us.
"We wanted to come out and show we were better than then. Straight up, we thought we were better than them and we went out there and just dominated them."
With the win, WVU (8-3, 4-2 Big East) remained alive for a share of the conference championship and the BCS bid. The Mountaineers can clinch a share of the title by winning at South Florida (5-6, 1-5) Thursday.
If WVU wins there and Cincinnati (7-3, 3-2) wins at Syracuse (5-5, 1-4) today and at home against Connecticut (4-6, 2-3) next Saturday, then the Mountaineers share the Big East title with Louisville (7-5, 5-2) and Cincinnati and perhaps even Rutgers (8-3, 4-2), but would also likely have the highest BCS ranking.
That would win a tiebreaker with the two or more teams tied at 5-2 in the Big East.
WVU also hindered the hopes Pitt (5-6, 3-3) held for a bowl bid in what could be the last game between the two for the foreseeable future. The Panthers must win at home against Syracuse Dec. 3 to be eligible for a bowl.
Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith set the school's single-season records for passing attempts, completions and yards as well as total offense. He was 22-for-31 for 241 yards and one touchdown.
Receiver Stedman Bailey set the season record for receiving yards and finished with three receptions for 80 yards and a 63-yard touchdown. Tavon Austin caught 10 passes for 102 yards. The Mountaineers also put Quinton Spain in at right guard and Curtis Feigt in at right tackle at halftime in place of Tyler Rader and Pat Eger. WVU ran for 115 yards in the second half.
"It helped," Holgorsen said. "We tell everyone they're going to be held accountable for what they do and if they don't play well, we'll replace them. We had some issues with a couple guys up front, so we replaced them. We felt it was the right thing to do."
WVU did a lot of its damage on the right side, including Alston's game-winning touchdown run, his 10th of the season. That capped an 11-play, 83-yard drive that featured Smith's nine-yard pass to Austin on fourth-and-6 at the Pitt 24. Alston scored three plays later.