PITTSBURGH - West Virginia's fourth-ranked defense gave up 284 passing yards, made Tino Sunseri look like Pat White at times and forced Pitt to punt just once in Friday's 103rd Backyard Brawl.
In fact, statistically speaking, about the only thing the Mountaineers did well was stop the Panthers' vaunted ground game. But even that comes with an asterisk because Pitt - which averaged 27 passes in its first 10 games - elected to throw on eight of its first 10 plays and set the stage of a 46-attempt passing day.
Still, it was that defense that determined the outcome of WVU's 35-10 rout of Pitt at Heinz Field, and it was because of what the Mountaineers did when they had to do it.
Be it forcing turnovers or taking advantage of Pitt mistakes, West Virginia took the ball away from the Panthers four times, and all four were huge.
Brandon Hogan started it by picking off Sunseri on the fifth play of the game and returning the ball 53 yards to the Pitt 2. It took Ryan Clarke one play to score.
A great way to start?
"The only thing that would have been better,'' Hogan said, "would have been to get in the end zone and score.''
The second turnover didn't set up points, but it saved at least three or seven. Pitt was inside the WVU 20 at the end of a Dion Lewis run before he was stripped of the ball. Terrence Garvin returned it to midfield to reverse field position.
The third came with just under six minutes to play in the first half with Pitt on the move again. Two plays after Sunseri somehow escaped a Sidney Glover sack and juked Keith Tandy with a ball fake to run for 22 yards on third-and-16, Ray Graham went into the middle. Seldom-used linebacker Casey Vance ripped the ball out of his hands and Hogan recovered near midfield.
One play later, Noel Devine turned a 0-yard pass into a 48-yard run down the sideline to set up a 2-yard Geno Smith-to-Will Johnson scoring pass.
"They have two really good running backs [Lewis and Graham] who refuse to go down,'' Vance said. "But the more they fight for yards, the more chance they have to give it up.''
That's three turnovers that were essentially worth 21 points - the 14 WVU scored and at least seven Pitt didn't. Then early in the fourth quarter it was a 14-point turnaround when Sunseri couldn't handle a bad snap from center with Pitt on the WVU 9.
Sunseri had a chance to pounce on the ball for a 15-yard loss, but instead tried to pick it up. That's when Scooter Berry intervened.
"I really wanted to pick it up and run,'' Berry said. "But he didn't look like he wanted to fall on it, so I figured I'd better just do that.''
West Virginia then turned that mistake into its last scoring drive, a 76-yarder that made the score 35-10.
Pitt had its chances