A very "lackluster" effort, IMO.... 4 turnovers? C'mon............
Panthers stunned by BG
By Mike Kovak, Staff writer
PITTSBURGH - Looks like the expectations for Pitt football need a bit of an adjustment, something the Panthers struggle to do on the football field.
Pitt proved preseason rankings - and offseason momentum - are meaningless. Heck, it will be a shock to see the Panthers in the others receiving votes category when the latest polls are released.
Not after the Panthers were humbled by Bowling Green, a 13-point underdog, 27-17 Saturday at Heinz Field. Pitt, ranked 25th by the Associated Press, had never lost to a member of the Mid-American Conference at home or as an opening game.
"They don't deserve to be ranked ahead of us right now," Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon said.
The Falcons (1-0) rallied from a two-touchdown deficit with a variety of offensive looks and multiple blitz packages.
Against a Pitt defense that primarily practices against a pro-style offense, Bowling Green had two different quarterbacks throw passes, three different players line up behind center and a tight end disguised as a fullback who ran all over the place.
"We threw a lot of stuff in play. We ran as much offense as you can run in an opening game. We had no idea how Pitt would respond to that," Brandon said.
The Pitt defense, which ranked fifth nationally a year ago, responded poorly.
"I thought they had a hard time figuring it out," Brandon said. "At practice, our guys ask us what to do if another team is doing that. We told them to call timeout. We forced them to keep off balance and scurrying around."
Early on, Pitt (0-1) had Bowling Green - a 62-7 loser to Tulsa in its last game - scurrying and it appeared the Panthers deserved every preseason accolade.
The Panthers' opening drive went eight plays and 71 yards as Pitt converted two third downs before LeSean McCoy scored on an 11-yard run.
The lead grew to 14-0 early in the second quarter as Pitt converted a fourth down before Bill Stull's third-and-goal pass found Derek Kinder in the end zone.
"We came out in the first quarter and played well," Pitt linebacker Scott McKillop said. "In the second quarter, Bowling Green came out with a little more flash to their offense. They went to a quick hurry-up offense and caught us off guard."
Bowling Green's defense caught the Panthers' offense off guard too.
McCoy, Pitt's preseason Heisman Trophy hopeful, had one of his worst games. He rushed for 71 yards on 23 carries (3.1 average) and lost a fumble.
"Their defense had my number. Give them credit," McCoy said.
Bowling Green, which won its season opener at Minnesota a year ago and won at nationally ranked Purdue in 2003, starting putting up numbers in the second quarter.
Quarterback Tyler Sheehan threw for a touchdown and ran for another. Anthony Turner, a running back who occasionally takes direct snaps, ran for a touchdown.
Jimmy Scheidler caught one pass for a loss of four yards last year. Against Pitt, the fullback caught three for 30 yards and two second-quarter touchdowns. The second tied the score, 14-14, with 1:31 left in the first half.
"They gave is some unusual situations which we knew they would do and we had a tough time adjusting to them," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said.
Pitt took a three-point lead into halftime after a Conor Lee 36-yard field goal. Before Lee's kick, Pitt opted to run approximately 20 seconds off the clock before calling timeout with three seconds remaining.
It turned into a game-changing decision.
"Our guys at halftime said, 'Coach, they ran the clock down. Why did they do that?' The kids said they should have gone for it," Brandon said. "Our guys at halftime felt confident."
The Falcons ran 51 offensive plays after halftime, compared to 40 for Pitt. Their defense also forced two key turnovers. The first came on a Cedric McGee fumble, which was returned for a 65-yard touchdown by Kenny Lewis only to be called back on an inadvertent whistle.
Fittingly, Bowling Green's defense came up with another turnover as soon as Pitt got the ball back. Cornerback Antonio Smith sacked Stull, who fumbled. Angelo Magnone recovered and returned the ball to Pitt's 11. Sheehan put Bowling Green ahead by 10 two plays later with an 11-yard run.
"That (Tulsa) loss lingered in our minds for the last eight months and I think we knew that some people doubted how goo we were," Brandon said. "I hope everyone realizes how hard it is to win on the road against a BCS program."