PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – With title hopes on the line, this year’s annual Backyard Brawl turned into a rout for the underdog.
Brandon Hogan’s interception and fumble recovery led to touchdowns in the first half, Geno Smith threw two scoring passes to Tavon Austin in the third quarter and West Virginia upset rival Pittsburgh for the second straight season, winning 35-10 on Friday.
Pittsburgh (6-5, 4-2 in Big East) had a clear path to the conference title and an automatic BCS bowl bid, only to fumble it away on a chilly, windy, but sunny day with four turnovers that repeatedly gave West Virginia’s offense excellent field position.
The Mountaineers (8-3, 4-2) were seemingly out of BCS contention following successive losses to Syracuse and Connecticut. Now, they can play in a major bowl—likely, the Fiesta—if they beat Rutgers on Dec. 4 and if Connecticut (6-4, 3-2) loses to Cincinnati (4-6, 2-3) on Saturday or South Florida (6-4, 3-3), also on Dec. 4.
The Panthers fumbled six times, losing three, and Tino Sunseri threw the interception by Hogan that led to the first of Ryan Clarke’s two 2-yard touchdown runs. One of which was only 1:34 into the game.
The Mountaineers scored three touchdowns in the second half, two more than they had after halftime in their first five conference games combined.
Last season, West Virginia put Pitt out of the Top 10 by beating the Panthers 19-16 on a last-second Tyler Bitancurt field goal. This time, the Mountaineers likely put the Panthers out of a major bowl.
The loss likely dooms the Panthers to yet another lower-tier bowl one season after late-season losses to West Virginia and then-unbeaten Cincinnati cost them the Big East title.
UConn, which was rooting for Pitt to lose, winds up with the automatic BCS bid if it wins out because it owns the tiebreaker over West Virginia and Pitt.
Pitt goes on the road to play Cincinnati on Dec. 4 for their final regular season game.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.