MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Pitt leads West Virginia 17-7 at halftime of the Backyard Brawl. Here is a quick analysis:
Turning point: It appeared momentum was on West Virginia's side after closing the gap to 14-7 and forcing Pitt to punt for the third consecutive series. But Ishmael Banks muffed a punt, and Andrew Taglianetti recovered for Pitt. The Panthers converted the mistake into a 30-yard field goal and built its lead to 10 points. West Virginia tried to take advantage of an interception by Tino Sunseri late in the second quarter, but Geno Smith was sacked on back-to-back plays and Pitt takes momentum into halftime. The Panthers get the ball to start the second half.
Stat of the half: 0-for-6. West Virginia has failed to convert a third down in the game, and that is a big reason why the Mountaineers only have seven points in the first half. The Pitt defense has been excellent all season on third down, going into the game allowing opponents to convert just 32 percent of the time.
What Pitt needs to do: Keep running. The run game has worked for a good portion of the game, so the Panthers need to keep going with that. Zach Brown got shaken up at the end of the second quarter, so we will see whether he comes out for the second half. True freshman Isaac Bennett has proven perfectly capable of shouldering the load. Pitt has 129 yards rushing in the first half, after totalling 200 against Louisville in its last game.
What West Virginia needs to do: Protect Geno Smith. The Panthers have harassed him throughout the game, and already have three sacks. The Pitt defensive line has been among the best in the Big East, and now you see why. West Virginia needs to get better blocking from its backs in this area, and from the offensive linemen as well. That would give the Mountaineers a shot at getting their passing game going.