PART 1, 2007 BACKYARD BRAWL: “13-9. HOW DID WE GET HERE?”
which was a shortage of a certain essential paper product here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. This specific inconvenience during the crisis, brought to my mind a different kind of butt wiping: the one that occurred in Morgantown, West Virginia on December 1, 2007. To Pitt fans, the game is simply remembered as “13-9”.
the past several weeks, I’ve watched full replays of Pitt-WVU 2007, Pitt-PSU 1976,
and Pitt-Clemson 2017. While they are all great, I hold the 2007 WVU game in
slightly higher regard than the others.
In this two part article, I first review the 4-7 season which provided the Panthers the
opportunity for us to even speak the words, “13-9”. Part two will recap the game
itself, with some insight from some of the key participants in the game.
I would ask that my POV brethren share in the comments, your own thoughts and
remembrances from what I believe is the best Pitt football victory in the past 35
As many of you may remember, Pitt limped into the 2007 Backyard Brawl with a
disappointing 4-7 record. What you may not recall is that in Dave Wannstedt’s
inaugural season as Pitt Head Coach in 2005, Pitt finished 5-6., inclusive of an
embarrassing overtime loss to Ohio University. In 2006, Pitt had opened the year 6-
1, and then dropped the final 5 games of the season. So as the 2007 season
approached its end, the program was 15-19 in three years under Coach Wannstedt.
While his seat wasn’t yet hot, it was certainly getting warm for our Head Coach.
In what has since become known simply as “Pitt-ing” or “SOP”, there was an array of
turmoil that contributed to the 4-7 record that we carried into the final game of the
First, before fall camp could ever really get started, prized 4/5 star QB recruit Pat
Bostick, left the program. While he would return to Pitt before the season began
(and in fact was the starting QB in the 13-9 game), it was a foreshadowing of mostly
bad things to come for the football program that year.
During the first game of the season against Eastern Michigan, starting QB Bill Stull
tore a ligament in his thumb, had surgery, and was lost for the year. None of the
three quarterbacks remaining on the roster had any experience, which contributed
greatly to the seven-loss season which was about to unfold.
Though not directly tied to wins and losses, then Athletic Director Jeff Long, who
had hired Dave Wannstedt, left for the AD job at Arkansas in early September of
Contributing to this mess of a start, Pitt lost several players to injury early on. In
addition to Stull, other players who were expected to contribute and who were lost
for the season at various points included Derek Kinder, Doug Fulmer, Kevin Collier
and Jason Pinkston.
In the third week of the season, Pitt traveled to East Lansing, Michigan to face
Michigan State (and a defense headed by Pat Narduzzi, who was in his first year as
Defensive Coordinator there). Trailing by 4 late in the game, Pitt got the ball inside
the Spartans 10 but could not take the lead. Pitt eventually lost 17-13.
The next week, they trailed 27-7 at halftime, and got embarrassed 34-14, at home,
by a Connecticut team that had only became a Division 1 program in 2004. In the
two weeks that followed, Pitt suffered a 44-14 loss to Virginia, (where Dave
Wannstedt made the inexplicable decision to open the game with an onside kick
which failed), and then dropped a double overtime loss to Navy on a Wednesday
night (nice scheduling, playing Navy’s triple option with essentially 2 days to
SOP reared its ugly head once again in Pitt’s eighth game against Louisville. After
tying the game late in the fourth quarter, Pitt needed a defensive stop to give its
offense a chance to take the outright lead. Aided by two 15 yard Pitt penalties,
Louisville scored easily to re-take the lead with under two minutes left. However,
Pitt did not quit. LeSean McCoy took things into his own hands and moved Pitt to the
Louisville 20. Pat Bostick then connected with Oderick Turner on what appeared to
be the game-tying touchdown. Unfortunately, while the catch was good, the score
was overturned by replay review. Pitt still had the ball inside the one yard line, first
and goal. What happened next is pure Pitt: McCoy and Bostick had a bad exchange
on a dive play, the fumble was recovered by Louisville. Pitt once again gave away a
game that was theirs to potentially win.
After a lackluster 20-17 win over a 2-6 Syracuse squad, Pitt faced Rutgers on the
road. Again, Pitt was in a position to win late in the game. With under a minute left
in the game, Pitt faced a third and seven from the Rutgers 34. Pat Bostick (who had
played so poorly in the first half that he was replaced by Kevan Smith) returned to
the game and completed a 28 yard pass to Darrell Strong, setting Pitt up with a first
down at the Rutgers 6. On second and goal, Bostick lofted a fade to Oderick Turner,
who pulled in the touchdown for an apparent Pitt victory. However the officials
threw a flag for offensive pass interference, presumably for a push off by Turner.
Nothing on a replay suggested offensive pass interference, and Pitt thereafter was
unable to score on third or fourth down. Once again Pitt had come up short in a
game that it easily could have won. SOP had reared its ugly head once again.
In the penultimate game of the year, Pitt could not overcome three Bostick
interceptions (including two pick-sixes and another that was returned to the one
yard line) and lost to the University of South Florida, 48-37. Despite giving up 48
points, the Pitt defense held the Bulls to an offensive output that was over 100 yards
less than their per game average. Despite the loss, it foreshadowed the defensive
effort Pitt would get the following week at Morgantown.
On the surface, it would appear that Bostick was having a decent freshman year
leading up to the West Virginia game. He had thrown for nearly 1500 yards and had
completed over 60 percent of his passes. He replaced Kevan Smith as the starter in
the fourth game of the year. However, he was mostly immobile. He threw an
interception on his first collegiate pass, and then would proceed to throw 10 more
in the next 8 games. His yards per completion and yards per attempt were both
very low, and it was clear that the coaches had little trust in the passing game as a
whole. Certainly after the debacle against South Florida the prior week, the coaches
were not going to put the WVU game in Bostick’s hands.
Meanwhile, LeSean McCoy emerged as a playmaking back in this, his freshman year.
For the season, he ran for over 1300 yards, and nearly averaged 5 yards per carry.
He scored 14 touchdowns, which broke the Pitt freshman record for touchdowns,
set by Tony Dorsett in 1973. He added 33 receptions, which trailed only TJ Porter
and Oderick Turner for Pitt that season. In short, the offense in 2007 was only as
effective as its freshman running back.
On the other side of the ball, the defense made strides under the watch of Dave Wannstedt and his defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads. They had lost several key players who left after 2006, including future NFL Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis, and two linebackers who also found success in the NFL, HB Blades and Clint Session. Early in the year the defense was gashed in consecutive losses to Connecticut, Virginia and Navy, where they gave up a total of 126 points. But thereafter, they settled in and gave up an average of under 20 points per game the rest of the way (not including the game against USF where the defense only gave up 27 of the 48 points scored by the Bulls). Individually, Scott McKillop would finish the year with 151 total tackles, 98 solo, which were good for 4th and 3rd respectively in the NCAA. He had 18 tackles against South Florida.
As we now know, the tackling of McKillop and the rest of the Pitt defense (aided by a
heavy dose of McCoy running the ball), would be the primary reason that Pitt was
able to pull off 13-9. Of course they got a little help from their friends Pat White,
Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, Noel Devine, Pat McAfee , Rich Rodriguez and WVU
Offensive Coordinator Calvin Magee (Bonus Points if you know Magee’s connection
to Pitt without looking it up).
So the 4-7 Panthers limped into Morgantown (literally and figuratively, Wanny was
on crutches you’ll recall). We had no chance, right? Aside from all of the above, WVU
was 10-1, ranked #2 in the AP and #1 in the Coaches Poll. They were headed to the
National Championship Game with a win over their hated rivals (us). WVU finished
the year 9th in the country in total offense, and heading into the Pitt game, were
averaging more than 40 points and over 300 yards rushing per game. WVU
Quarterback Pat White was Big East offensive player of the year in 2006 and 2007
and was a Heisman Trophy candidate. WVU was a 28 and a half point favorite.
Did Pitt have a chance? You bet they did.