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A Win ... and a Wait

Don Nehlen: West Virginia loses to Pittsburgh, 38-28, but there may be one game left in his 21-year career.

November 25, 2000|From Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Don Nehlen's last season as West Virginia's coach was much like his first--the Mountaineers couldn't find a way to beat rival Pittsburgh.

However, it was the eventual success against Pittsburgh for which Nelson's 21-year coaching career at West Virginia will largely be remembered.

Pittsburgh's 38-28 victory Friday was only its second over a Nehlen-coached team in nine years. Nehlen, who is retiring, went 11-8-2 against the Panthers.

When Nehlen was hired in 1980, West Virginia hadn't beaten Pittsburgh since 1975. That streak lasted until 1983, Nehlen's fourth season, but the Mountaineers would lose to Pittsburgh only four times in the next 17 seasons.

"When I got here, Pitt was a Top Five team and we were way behind," Nehlen said. "They had Dan Marino, and they were like an all-star team. But it's been a great rivalry, with some crazy games."

Friday's game turned that way after West Virginia rallied for three consecutive touchdowns after falling behind 38-9. Pittsburgh staged a similar comeback in Morgantown in 1989, rallying for a 31-31 tie after trailing, 31-9, in the fourth quarter.

However, a wide-open Khori Ivy dropped what seemed a certain touchdown pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter Friday, effectively ending the comeback.

West Virginia, 6-5 overall and 3-4 in the Big East, still has a shot at one of the conference's four bowl slots. And tackle Tanner Russell thinks the Mountainers will get it.

"There is no doubt in my mind. It would be Don Nehlen's last game, and the bowls know that," Russell said. "They're not stupid."

The Mountaineers, who take large, enthusiastic crowds to bowls, would seem a logical choice for the Music City Bowl in Nashville.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh (7-4, 4-3) is definitely bowl-bound with its best season since 1989. The Panthers, however, had to overcame four interceptions by two quarterbacks against the Mountaineers. Helping them do that was Kevan Barlow, who ran for 272 yards and four touchdowns.

"They don't have to say we're rebuilding anymore," said Pittsburgh Coach Walt Harris, who was 13-21 in his first three seasons. "It took us four years to get to 7-4, and it wasn't a pretty 7-4, but I hope the recruits we're after sense the potential of this program."

Barlow's yardage was the second most at Pittsburgh to Tony Dorsett's 303 against Notre Dame in 1975, and it gave him 1,053 yards for the season. He is Pittsburgh's first 1,000-yard rusher since Billy West in 1994.



Years 21

Record 148-93-4

Conference titles 1

Bowl record 3-9

National titles 0

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