September 16, 2007

Michigan State holds off Panthers, 17-13

All week, the focus was on the defense being able to stop the run. The defense responded. Pitt's offense had a big-time performance from freshman running back LeSean McCoy, but outside of McCoy's effort, the Panther offense could not answer the call, as the Panthers dropped a 17-13 heartbreaker at Michigan State.

McCoy rushed for 175 yards on 25 carries, including a 64-yard touchdown. He accounted for 180 of Pitt's 292 yards of total offense. Kevan Smith completed 9-of-18 passes for 65 yards and two interceptions. He was 3-of-4 for 45 yards on Pitt's final drive. His only incompletion was an attempted Hail Mary. It remains to be seen how he will respond, but facing a hostile crowd, leading the Panthers on a potential game-winning drive has to build confidence in the freshman quarterback.

"I told our players, we got a good football team," head coach Dave Wannstedt said after the game. "The key word is team. You could have 21 guys playing great, but one or two mistakes by one player takes it away. We had the energy, we fought to the last play. We made too many mistakes. You're not going to win that way. Where we turned it over, when we turned it over, we should've been run out of the stadium."

Despite Pitt outrushing Michigan State, 207-144, there were two numbers that created a bigger gap than what appeared on the scoreboard. Pitt turned the ball over three times, while Michigan State had none. All three Pitt turnovers led to Michigan State scores. Even worse, the Panthers were 0-for-12 on third downs. Strangely, they were 2-for-3 on fourth downs, the only miss being the game's final incomplete pass.

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