Notebook: Cincinnati holds key to Mountaineers' BCS hopes
MORGANTOWN - After defeating Pittsburgh 21-20 Friday night, West Virginia's football team still has a shot at the Orange Bowl.
It just needs a boost of vitamin "C."
In order for the Mountaineers to qualify, they first have to finish out the season with a victory at South Florida on Thursday. Then they need that boost.
WVU must hope Cincinnati wins on the road at noon today against Syracuse, then at home against Connecticut to create at least a three-way tie at the top of the Big East standings with Louisville.
If that happens, West Virginia would advance through the mini-conference tie-breaker. The next tie-breaker would go to the highest-ranked team in the BCS standings, which would almost certainly be the Mountaineers, a potential 9-3 team and one ranked No. 23 in the latest coaches' poll.
Cincinnati is a 41/2-point favorite today against Syracuse and will probably be favored against UConn, but the Bearcats are relying on freshman quarterback Munchie Legaux after the regular season-ending injury to standout Zach Collaros. Legaux is known as a runner. He's thrown but 59 passes this season and completed 45.8 percent.
If UC does not win out or WVU falls to South Florida, the Mountaineers will almost certainly go to the Belk Bowl (the former Meineke Car Care Bowl) in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 27.
At 9:22 remaining in the first quarter, Pitt received an offisides call on WVU's Jorge Wright. Oddly, the ball was inside the 1-yard line, yet did not result in a first down. On fourth down, however, the Panthers earned the very short-yardage first down and subsequently scored via a Zach Brown rush.
West Virginia's sports information department confirmed through Big East officials that another call on WVU's Wright was indeed a chop block. It, too, was odd since Wright is a defensive, not offensive, player. The call was that Wright went low on a field-goal block attempt to make way for Mountaineer defenders jumping.
With West Virginia trailing 20-14, the Mountaineers had varying reactions.
"It was like, 'Oh, man, here we go again,'' said tailback Shawne Alston. "But we didn't get down on ourselves.''
No, instead the Mountaineers developed a plan. It was pretty elementary, actually.
"We got behind 20-7 and we started looking at the scoreboard and said, 'OK, we score once and make it 20-14 and then score again and win it,'" said linebacker Najee Goode. "Everybody just said, 'Yeah, that sounds like a plan.'"
Most of the single-season West Virginia passing records that were expected to fall Friday night were dispatched of quickly.
Geno Smith broke the previous record for attempts (419) with his third throw, an 11-yard completion to Tavon Austin. He broke the record for completions (274) with a 7-yarder to Dustin Garrison and yards (3,607) with his 63-yard touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey. He also broke the record for total offense (3,515) on that TD pass to Bailey.
All of those records were held by Marc Bulger and all were set in 1998.
Bailey, meanwhile, broke David Saunders' single-season record for receiving yards (1,043 in 1996) with his first catch, a 16-yarder.
And Austin broke the mark for receptions (77, by Saunders in 1998 and Shawn Foreman in 1997) with his 24-yard catch in the fourth quarter.