LOUISVILLE, Ky.--West Virginia's hopes at a BCS Bowl berth are still alive--making Friday's Backyard Brawl against Pitt tremendously consequential for both teams.
The Mountaineers stayed alive for a trip to a BCS game with a 17-10 victory against Louisville today at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
West Virginia (7-3, 3-2) used a standout effort from its nationally-ranked defense, which yielded just a field goal--Louisville's touchdown was a defensive score--to stymie the Cardinals (5-6, 2-4), who didn't score in the final 40 minutes.
As a measure of how sturdy West Virginia's defense was, consider this: Louisville's leading rusher was Chris Philpott.
He's a punter.
He ran a fake punt for 21 yards.
The Cardinals scored first a Philpott 43-yard field goal on their second possession to go up, 3-0.
But West Virginia went to its power game, running it right at the Cardinals and bullishly driving down the field to pull ahead, 7-3. West Virginia--using Ryan Clarke as an off-set wingback--pushed the football 78 yards on 10 plays, scoring on a 2-yard Noel Devine run over the right side to take the first-quarter advantage.
That lead was wrestled away from the Mountaineers on an offensive breakdown deep in its own territory by West Virginia, allowing Louisville to pounce on a defensive score with 10:26 remaining before halftime.
On the play, West Virginia left tackle Don Barclay--playing with an injured shoulder--was beaten off the edge by Rodney Gnat, who hit quarterback Geno Smith near the goal line. The ball jarred loose from Smith and bounced into the end zone where Louisville's Daniel Brown jumped on it to give the Cardinals a 10-7 lead.
But the Mountaineers clawed back to take a halftime lead, going ahead 14-10 on a 2-yard dive into the end zone by Clarke with 6:16 remaining before halftime that was set up by a long Devine pass reception.
Kicker Tyler Bitancurt booted a 43-yard field goal early in the third quarter to stretch the West Virginia lead to 17-10.
Bitancurt attempted a 41-yarder with 2:33 left that was blocked, but on Louisville's first play after the turnover, Keith Tandy pulled in an interception to ice it.
Colin Dunlap: email@example.com or 412-263-1459.