The 2021 season was undoubtedly the pinnacle of Pitt football in the last 40 years, let alone since the turn of the century, but ESPN’s Bill Connelly didn’t rank any of last season’s games among the Top 60 from the 2000s.
However, Pitt did have two of its games ranked on the list — one very, very memorable night in Morgantown in 2007 and one heartbreaking afternoon at Heinz Field in 2009.
60. Hawaii Bowl brawl
40. Tom Brady, Orange Bowl champ
37. Suh Game
36. Shoe Game
28. Snow Bowl
22-21. Bama-Clemson & Clemson-Bama
15. Bush Push
9. App State
I ranked the 60 best CFB games of the 2000s, and it was IMPOSSIBLE.https://t.co/FFyC9iWEl9
— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) February 18, 2022
No. 31 — Pitt: 13, West Virginia: 9; Dec. 1, 2009
There probably doesn’t need to be anything else said. That score will forever link the two bitter rivals, even after games are no longer being played. And with the Backyard Brawl being resumed in 2022, 13-9 will surely make the rounds.
Connelly ranked Pitt-WVU’s 2007 matchup as the 31st-best game of the 2000s, writing:
“Toward the end of the wildest season of our lifetimes, it looked like we might get a Missouri-West Virginia national title game. But Mizzou got run out of the Alamodome by Oklahoma late in the Big 12 championship game, and WVU, a four-touchdown favorite over rival Pitt, forgot how to move the football. Pitt held the Mountaineers to 183 total yards — with help from quarterback Pat White’s dislocated thumb — and on its last three drives, West Virginia lost a fumble and turned the ball over on downs twice. Somehow Pitt held on for an all-time upset.”
No. 13 — Cincinnati: 45, Pitt: 44; Dec. 5, 2009
In Frank Cignetti Jr.’s first tenure as Pitt’s offensive coordinator, he had Pitt’s offense running at one of its highest levels since the turn of the century.
Against No. 5 Cincinnati, former Pitt star Dion Lewis ran for 194 yards and three touchdowns and Jon Baldwin hauled in 113 receiving yards and two touchdowns en route to 44 points. But the late-game heroics of Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard helped the Bearcats to walk off as 45-44 winners following a 29-yard touchdown with under 30 seconds left in the game and a successful extra point.
Connelly ranked Cincy-Pitt’s 2009 matchup as the 13th-best game of the 2000s, writing:
“With Cincinnati positioning itself for a shot at the national title and Pitt angling for its first top-10 finish since 1982, these River City rivals put on a show in the snow.
“Pitt rode a 24-point second quarter to a 31-10 lead, but two huge plays by the immortal Mardy Gilyard — a 98-yard kick return and 68-yard reception — brought the Bearcats back into the game. They tied it at 38-38 late, but Pitt responded with a Dion Lewis touchdown with 1:36 remaining … and mishandled the snap on the extra point. That opened the door for Cincinnati to win the game when Tony Pike lobbed a perfect 29-yard touchdown pass to Armon Binns that, had the refs not put one second back on the clock in the Texas-Nebraska game (see No. 37 above), would have sent the Bearcats to the BCS championship game.”
Connelly’s Top 5 games of the 2000s included: No. 1: USC-Texas in 2006, No. 2: Georgia-Oklahoma in 2018, No. 3 Auburn-Alabama in 2013, No. 4: Auburn and Georgia and No. 5: Texas-Texas Tech in 2008.