Pitt Football: Bostick proves he's a winner; Beating Irish his third upset
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt called quarterback Pat Bostick "a tough guy" because he got back up every time he got hit.
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NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Pat Bostick was far from perfect in Pitt's thrilling, four-overtime 36-33 victory against Notre Dame Saturday.
He was intercepted three times, he consistently overthrew receivers and he missed some easy throws.
His final statistics against the Fighting Irish were ordinary -- 14 of 27 for 164 yards and one touchdown.
But Bostick, who started at quarterback in place of injured Bill Stull (concussion), proved two things in the game -- he's a winner and he's what Dave Wannstedt calls "a tough guy" because he kept getting up every time he got hit, made a bad throw or when it looked as if the Panthers were beaten. He made the plays necessary for Pitt to win the game.
• Game: Pitt (6-2) vs. Louisville (5-3), noon, Saturday.
• Where: Heinz Field.
• TV: ESPN.
Bostick played with grit, passion and heart -- like a guy who wasn't going to leave Notre Dame Stadium until his team had won. He was a leader, at least for a day, which is a trait he probably developed last year when he led the Panthers to upset wins against Cincinnati and West Virginia.
Because quarterbacks are often judged by wins and losses, Bostick's performance Saturday should have earned him an A-plus. It was his first start of the season, and Pitt was on the road with a rebuilt offensive line -- and he took the challenge head on.
"I came out and made some mistakes out there, forced a couple of things, made a couple of plays," Bostick said. "We made enough plays to win though and this was a total team win. Situationally, fortunately the picks weren't killers, except for the one at the end of the half, where they got points off of it. But the bottom line is we are here to win a football game and when you throw picks, it is not about you, you can't say 'Woe is me.'
"It is all about, 'What do I have to do on the next drive to take this team down the field to win the game?' "
The one bad interception Bostick threw -- it was returned to the Pitt 13 by Notre Dame and eventually the Irish punched it in for a touchdown and a 17-3 lead -- came right before the half. It put the Panthers in what seemed to be an insurmountable hole, considering the offense had a total of 71 yards and five first downs in the half.
But Bostick came out in the third quarter and guided the Panthers on an impressive eight-play, 71-yard touchdown drive that pulled them to within 17-10. That drive changed the complexion of the game because it established that Pitt could move the ball against Notre Dame.
While that drive was a lot of running back LeSean McCoy -- and it was helped by a 15-yard penalty against Notre Dame -- Bostick made a huge throw to Oderick Turner under pressure on fourth-and-1 from the Irish 41. Turner caught the ball, turned up the field and ran 37 yards to the Irish 4 to set up a LaRod Stephens-Howling touchdown run.
The drive also gave Bostick confidence considering Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said the coaching staff made the decision at the half to take the shackles off Bostick and open up the offense.
A little later in the quarter, with Pitt still trailing by seven, Bostick led the Panthers on what might have been their most impressive drive of the season. They went 70 yards on 15 plays, consumed 8 minutes and 28 seconds and Bostick was 4 for 5 for 31 yards.
Bostick led one more impressive drive late in the game with Notre Dame leading, 24-17. This time Pitt went 70 yards in eight plays. Again, he made two big throws, a 37-yarder to T.J. Porter which put the Panthers in scoring range and a 10-yard fade pattern to Jonathan Baldwin for the tying touchdown.
Bostick, who had been taken out in the first quarter and replaced by Kevan Smith, said the key to it all was simple -- he relied and trusted his teammates and stayed on even keel emotionally.
"We had worked on some things when we were going to use Kevan a little bit," Bostick said. "And like I said, it is a team game and whatever the coaching staff deems appropriate at the time, I am fine with it. I just try to keep my head in the game and when they called down and said, 'You have to win this game,' I said, 'I'm looking up and have 10 guys around me to help me do it so let's go do it.'
"From a program standpoint, the West Virginia game meant a lot, but for this season and what this win means for us, this one was huge."
Bostick will probably return to the sideline Saturday when Pitt (6-2, 2-1 Big East) entertains Louisville (5-3, 1-2), but his contributions to this season will not soon be forgotten.
One thing overlooked in all of the excitement Saturday was an important piece of information. The victory means Pitt, which is ranked No. 25 in The Associated Press poll, is bowl eligible. But, as the Panthers found out in 2006, they probably need at least one more win to guarantee themselves a trip to a bowl game.
First Published November 3, 2008 12:00 am