Backyard Brawl Notebook: Lewis tops league rushing mark
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Former Pitt standout LeSean McCoy set the Big East freshman rushing record in 2007 when he ran 276 times for 1,328 yards.
That was broken last night by the guy who replaced McCoy in Pitt's backfield two years later: Dion Lewis.
Lewis entered the game needing only 37 yards to break the record and went right to work as he had six carries for 30 yards in the Panthers' first drive and he had the milestone before the half.
The record-breaking run was big -- he ran for 5 yards around the left end on third-and-3 to keep the Panthers' first scoring drive alive. That drive ended with a 37-yard field goal by Dan Hutchins and gave Pitt a 3-0 lead.
Lewis, who is the eighth freshman to lead Pitt in rushing since 1973, might have the Big East freshman rushing record but he still has a lot of work to do to own the school record.
That's because in 1973 a freshman tailback named Tony Dorsett ran for 1,686 yards and led the Panthers to their first winning record in 10 years. Three years later Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy and led Pitt to its most recent national championship.
Lewis tied another of Dorsett's freshman records earlier this season when he had surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in only eight games.
There was something on the line for West Virginia last night that there hadn't been for a long time: a second consecutive shot at a top-10 team.
Pitt came into the game as The Associated Press' No. 8-ranked team, while West Virginia's most recent opponent was No. 5 Cincinnati, which defeated the visiting Mountaineers, 24-21, Nov. 13.
It marked the first time since 1959 that West Virginia played consecutive teams ranked in the AP's top 10. That season, the Mountaineers lost in late October to then-No. 6 Syracuse -- which went on to win the national championship -- and then fell to No. 7 Penn State the next week.
The Mountaineers' climb grew even steeper as that season progressed.
After both losses, West Virginia dropped a game to No. 6 Southern California in Los Angeles, making it three in a row to teams in the top 10.
A scene about 30 minutes before kickoff -- with most of the crowd yet to make its way into Mountaineer Field -- provided some excitement. At midfield, as both teams were concluding a portion of their warm-up sessions before heading back into their respective locker rooms, some verbal jousting began with Pitt defensive lineman Mick Williams and West Virginia defensive lineman Chris Neild being the most vociferous. In a flash, the teams came together, but coaches from both teams and game officials stepped in, quickly quelling the situation.
The West Virginia offense couldn't have looked any more frazzled on its first two drives -- and the Mountaineer Field crowd let them know, booing at the culmination of the Mountaineers' second flat drive.
The first two West Virginia touches gained a total of minus-9 yards, and the team was penalized three times for 21 yards.
Harder to believe, though, was that quarterback Jarrett Brown actually completed two passes in that span, but both for negative yardage: one for a loss of 1 yard to Jock Sanders, another for a loss of 2 yards to Tavon Austin.
Pitt cornerback Aaron Berry was replaced in the starting lineup by Ricky Gary. Berry injured his shoulder in the third quarter of the Notre Dame game.
First Published November 28, 2009 12:00 am