MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - John Denver's famous ode to West Virginia blared at about 100 decibels, Mountainer fans screamed even louder and the WVU players celebrated like they had won the national title.
Pitt's players, meanwhile, walked off the field - every single one with his head held high - and vowed this gut-wrenching loss in a great rivalry matchup would not spoil their season.
"We'll bounce back fine," offensive lineman Joe Thomas said. "We've got a great team. We've got great charisma on our team. We never doubt ourselves."
It's great that the players feel that way, but the reality for the Panthers is they opened the door for plenty of people to doubt them in Friday's 19-16 loss to West Virginia.
Oh, but the game didn't mean anything, right?
PSU vs. Pitt still possible
What needs to happen for Penn State and Pitt to meet in the Fiesta Bowl:
1. Oklahoma State needs to lose to Oklahoma today. If the Cowboys beat the Sooners, they would be the logical choice for the Fiesta Bowl, which has a business tie-in with the Big 12 Conference. In that case, the Orange Bowl would pick next and could decide between PSU and Iowa.
2. Pitt needs to beat Cincinnati next week to win the Big East title and claim the conference's automatic BCS bid.
3. Texas must win the Big 12 title game and play in the BCS championship game.
4. The Fiesta Bowl must choose Penn State over Iowa, TCU and other at-large contenders.
5. The Orange Bowl picks next, and Pitt would seem to be a good choice there. This could be the biggest problem in the whole PSU-Pitt scenario. However, the Orange Bowl may decide to go with TCU, which could be a good drawing card since it boasts an undefeated record.
6. If the Orange Bowl doesn't take Pitt, the Fiesta Bowl has the next pick and could select the Panthers in order to set up the rivalry game with PSU.
- Cory Giger
True, Pitt can still win the Big East title and reach a BCS bowl game with a win next week against Cincinnati. In that sense, Friday's loss can be overcome.
But there are now three indisputable facts, and two of them do not bode well for the Panthers.
First, Cincinnati is really, really good, particularly offensively. Bearcats quarterback Tony Pike threw six TD passes in Friday's 49-36 win over Illinois and has been unstoppable all season when healthy. Even a red-hot Panther squad would have had a very difficult time winning next week.
This Pitt team is coming off a poor effort against its biggest rival and lost in crushing fashion as the Mountaineers drove for a winning field goal in the final seconds.
That, for the people who claim the game didn't matter, means plenty.
Confidence, regardless of what the Panther players say, will be an issue next week.
The third factor, which is good news for Pitt, is the biggest cliche in sports.
It's only one game.
"We still have a chance at the BCS, and that's all we're worried about," Pitt tight end Dorin Dickerson said. "We're going to come back next week with a fire."
Any great team can regroup after one loss, no matter how bad the loss.
There's one big question, though: Is Pitt a great team?
The Panthers, whose best wins this season came against Rutgers and vastly overrated Notre Dame, looked as mediocre as it gets for all but one play Friday.
Bill Stull hit Jonathan Baldwin on a 50-yard bomb with 2:54 to play to tie things at 16. That's it. That was Pitt's lone highlight.
The Panther defense, which is supposed to be outstanding, then allowed WVU to march right down the field and get into position to win the game.
With 34 seconds to go, an excited Baldwin jumped into the defensive huddle during a timeout and tried to implore his teammates to make a stand and send the game to overtime. It was too late, though, as the Mountaineers had already advanced to the Panther 28.
Earlier, Pitt's defense fell asleep and allowed Noel Devine to race 88 yards for a score. That TD with 4:34 left in the third quarter ignited the crowd and gave the Mountaineers control.
It's tough to believe, after watching the defense struggle in key situations, that the Panthers will be able to shut down a Cincinnati offense that's averaging 39 points per game.
The Mountaineers came in with a good game plan that basically consisted of making Stull beat them. The quarterback, who has overcome great skepticism and played well all season, had a rough night as he was 16-of-30 for 179 yards.
"I blame myself for throwing two picks," Stull said.
The quarterback then was asked if he and his teammates can put the loss behind them and focus on next week's game.
"We're going to be fine," Stull said. "I'm not worried about that."
Neither is Baldwin.
"Of course I've got faith," he said. "We've been playing good all year, and we just had a little setback now. We'll be ready for Cincinnati."
If they are ready and can pull off that win, this will go down as one of the great Pitt seasons in recent memory.
But if they suffer an emotional hangover and/or play anything like they did Friday night, the Panthers won't stand much of a chance against the Bearcats.