Notebook: West Virginia has betters BCS hopes

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With West Virginia claiming a 35-10 victory against Pitt in Friday's Backyard Brawl at Heinz Field, the Mountaineers remain alive to secure the BCS Bowl berth from the Big East Conference -- which would more than likely be an invitation to the Fiesta Bowl.

There was a Fiesta Bowl representative at the Backyard Brawl yesterday.

For the Mountaineers (8-3, 4-2) to claim the top spot in the Big East, and that BCS berth, here is what would have to occur:

• The Mountaineers need to win next Saturday at home against Rutgers, and Connecticut must lose at least one of its remaining games -- at home against Cincinnati and then next week at South Florida.

Pitt (6-5, 4-2) could also still secure the BCS bowl bid, but two of the components are out of the Panthers' hands. For Pitt to secure the BCS bid:

• Pitt must defeat Cincinnati on the road next Saturday, Rutgers must defeat West Virginia in Morgantown next Saturday, and Connecticut must lose one of its two remaining games.

Blew it, again

Pitt had complete control of the Big East race three weeks ago but lost a mistake-filled game to Connecticut to bring the rest of the pack back into the race then yesterday blew a chance to really take a strong step back out in front.

"We didn't finish today," said defensive end Chas Alecxih, who had two sacks. "It is very disappointing because we felt like the last three seasons, that we controlled our own destiny and let it slip away."

Season not over

Not surprisingly, the theme of Pitt's postgame media session, along with disappointment, was an attempt by the players to put the West Virginia game behind them and begin to look ahead to "finishing strong" with a win next Saturday against Cincinnati.

"We have a game next week and it matters in terms of what bowl game we go to," Pitt middle linebacker Max Gruder said. "We have to rebound and come out ready to play next week."

Blame players, not coaches

There is plenty of heat on Dave Wannstedt and his staff from a fan base that has become increasingly impatient.

But the players say don't blame coaches because it isn't their fault that players make mistakes.

"For whatever reason, it falls on us players, it has nothing to do with anything else," Gruder said. "Whether it is turnovers or just not making plays, it falls on us players and we need to make plays. That starts with me, we didn't make nearly enough plays to win this game."

Turning point

Many players spoke of the turning point in the Backyard Brawl coming on the very first drive of the game, when Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri threw an interception to West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan, who returned it 53-yards to the Pitt 2. West Virginia punched the ball in to make it 7-0.

"I just turned around and saw the ball and I caught it, and tried to make a guy miss," Hogan said. "I think [Pitt receiver Devin Street] was open, though. I saw somebody right beside me."

Quick hits

With four receptions, West Virginia's Jock Sanders extended his consecutive games with at least one reception streak to 39 games. That broke a record formerly held by West Virginia receiver David Saunders. ... West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith's 71-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin was a career long.


Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com . Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com .


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