PITTSBURGH - It could have been Black Friday for more than Christmas gift shoppers.
It may have been for now-embattled Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt. Before Friday's Backyard Brawl against West Virginia, someone suggested a photographer snap a picture of the postgame handshake, because it would never be staged again between the two participating coaches.
Maybe. Maybe not.
It was not, however, Black Friday for WVU coach Bill Stewart, whose team won in convincing fashion, 35-10, before a crowd of 60,562 at cold, windy Heinz Field and an ABC national television audience.
Did Stewart save his job? That remains to be seen. Even he, however, knew the outcome was important.
"I can't tell you how big of a win this is for West Virginia, for this staff and for me personally," he said afterward.
It was a moment of candor that has to be appreciated. Had West Virginia lost the game, common sense says Stewart would have been fired after the season. A 7-4 record at this point with the talent the coach has would not have been acceptable in the Mountain State. Forget the win-loss record. The natives would have been beyond restless. One would have had to bring in Dr. Lou to sell many season tickets or collect many donations.
Maybe Stewart's head is still on the proverbial chopping block. If Connecticut defeats Cincinnati today and South Florida in a week, the Huskies win the Big East's BCS berth. Maybe that pushes Stewart's Mountaineer coaching career into the abyss.
One thing is certain: One has give credit to the coach and his players for Friday's performance, at least that of the second half.
Wearing special Nike Pro Combat uniforms supposed to honor coal miners, the Mountaineers dug deep. With the wind whipping, they went to the running game 39 times and passed the ball just 12 times.
In the first half, the ploy worked not so much. WVU had 75 yards of total offense. Quarterback Geno Smith was 3-of-6 passing for 59 yards. In the second half, though, the Mountaineer offense began to click. Adjustments? From WVU?
"We got more play calls in the second half,'' said West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. "We had 51 total plays [in the game]. We've gotta not go three and out. There were adjustments, but we couldn't even get to them in the first half. We only had 17 play calls, and when you throw in situational third-down things and when you're in your choice downs ... we just didn't have many of those in the first half.''
WVU did so, for the most part, without the help of star running back Noel Devine, who had just four carries for 30 yards. Shawne Alston again did a nice job taking over and had 16 carries for 73 yards.
"The bone bruise is on one foot,'' Stewart said of Devine's situation. "Then he got an ankle [injury] the other day, back at Louisville. I didn't want to elaborate too much because I don't want people knowing all of our weaknesses, but it's very, very sore. He played. He said he wanted to play. It was good to see him get that [24-yard] run.
"He still can run fast for most people, but, honest to God, I don't think he has the jump-cutting ability he once had."