MORGANTOWN - While it was Pittsburgh running back Dion Lewis who garnered all of the early season attention because of an outstanding freshman season in which he ran for 1,799 yards and 17 touchdowns, West Virginia University football coach Bill Stewart said you can't overlook the pass receivers.
"Pitt has a great receiving corps," Stewart said during his Sunday teleconference. "It's not just (Mike) Shanahan and (Jonathan) Baldwin. Don't forget about (Mike) Cruz at tight end. He's a big guy that catches the ball."
Pitt, 6-4 overall and leading the Big East with 4-1 mark, became bowl eligible Saturday with a victory over South Florida. The Panthers can go a long way toward clinching the BCS berth that accompanies a conference title with a win this Friday when they host WVU in the annual Backyard Brawl at Heinz Field. Kickoff is set for noon, and the game will be televised by ABC.
WVU, 7-3 overall and 3-2 in the conference, needs to win Friday and the following weekend against Rutgers if it is to have any hope in winning at least a share of the title. But Stewart is not looking past Friday.
"We have two (games) to go," he said. "I'm looking forward to Pitt and Pitt only."
Baldwin lead the Panthers with 42 catches and has scored five touchdowns. Shanahan trails with 35 catches and one touchdown.
"Mike has made play after play," Stewart said. "He's a big, tall receiver and a very dependable young man. He's (WVU tight end) Tyler Urban's best friend. When we were up for a home visit with Tyler, I saw Mike on the basketball court. I knew he was a Pitt commit, and I honored that and wished him the best.
"Mike was not offered (a scholarship) here at summer camp," he continued. "I could not understand that. That was a big mistake. He's a great Pitt Panther, and Tyler is a great West Virginia Mountaineer."
Cruz has caught 13 passes. Lewis has pulled down 20.
Another player for WVU to keep a close eye upon will be all-everything Ray Graham. He leads the team in all-purpose yardage. Graham has rushed for 804 yards and eight touchdowns, caught 20 passes for 168 and two touchdowns and has 382 yards in kickoff returns.
WVU's defense will need another performance like it had against Louisville last weekend in the 17-10 victory. Stewart on Sunday named 16 defensive players as "champions" for their performance in the game. He also honored both the entire offensive and defensive scout teams for their work in preparation for the contest.