PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Dave Wannstedt took the kind of gamble that can make or break a season, or a coach's career. Pittsburgh lost, and the Panthers' latest defeat may bring down their season with it.
Joey Bullen kicked a 29-yard field goal in the second overtime and Navy then held as Pitt inexplicably gambled by going for a touchdown on fourth down when a chip-shot field goal would have forced another overtime, and the Midshipmen upset the Panthers 48-45 on Wednesday night.
Pitt (2-4), losing its fourth straight despite freshman LeSean McCoy's 165 yards rushing and three touchdowns in an almost defense-free game, was in position to win when Navy (4-2) settled for the field goal and the Panthers got the ball back with a chance to win.
But, with Pitt facing fourth-and-goal at the Navy 2, Wannstedt went for the win and freshman Pat Bostick threw too high to tight end Darrell Strong on a fade route in the end zone with Rashawn King in coverage.
"That's our 2-point conversion play," Wannstedt explained. "We do it all the time in practice and it works perfectly. ... If I had the same situation, I would do it again."
But that's in practice, and this was in an overtime game Pitt desperately needed to win after losing to Virginia by 30 points and Connecticut by 20 in its last two games.
The Panthers, who now appear headed to a third consecutive season under Wannstedt without a bowl appearance, lost because they couldn't convert several times in key situations or slow down Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. He ran for 122 yards and a score and threw for another.
It will be the win-it-or-lose-it on one play call that will long be debated among Pitt fans.
"I'm glad they did pass the ball but, no matter what, we were going to stop it and we were going to win the game," Navy linebacker Irv Spencer said. "I don't know how, I don't when, but we were going to win this game."
In the huddle, fullback Conredge Collins and McCoy expected one or the other to get the ball.
"We were going for the win, it was crunch time and I guess people wanted to go home or something," Collins said. "It just didn't go the way we wanted to go. Do I wish we could have run the ball with me or LeSean? Most definitely, but you've got to respect the play call and that's our coach."
By gambling, Wannstedt appeared to be saying to his slumping team, "We're going to win this right now." But the play itself -- one in which Strong went to the edge of the end zone and waited for the ball inches from the out of bounds line -- was risky enough no matter the circumstances.
"I can't say much as a player. You always go with the plays they call. ... There's no use pointing fingers at anyone," Bostick said. "We can look at the film and say we could have done many things different."
With former stars Tony Dorsett and Curtis Martin watching, Pitt showed off its next star running back in McCoy, who scored three touchdowns for the second time in his six college games. Navy's Reggie Campbell also had three touchdowns, on a 25-yard pass from Kaheaku-Enhada in the first overtime and a 4-yard run and a 10-yard pass play in regulation.
McCoy had given Pitt its first lead since the second game of the season, a 34-10 win over Grambling State, when he scored from the 2 early in the third quarter to make it 28-21.
Navy, playing its sixth consecutive game in which at least 30 points were needed to win, later took a 35-31 lead when Kaheaku-Enhada scored from the 3.
But Navy's own gamble failed -- a fake punt by Greg Veteto with the Midshipmen leading -- and, with a short field, Pitt quickly drove 45 yards for the go-ahead touchdown when McCoy scored from the 21 to make it 38-35.
Navy coach Paul Johnson said the run wasn't called and, while the punter has the option to take off in certain situations, this wasn't one of them.
"It was just a crazy game," Johnson said. "It looked like whoever had the ball last was going to win, and it didn't turn out that way."
There was plenty of offensive talent in Heinz Field -- the honorary captains were former Navy star Roger Staubach and Dorsett, and Pitt honored Martin, the NFL's No. 4 career rusher, at halftime. Fittingly, there was plenty of offense and very little defense as both teams followed their season-long trends.
Navy, No. 2 nationally in rushing with an average of 348 yards, opened leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 21-14, but Pitt answered each time in Bostick's first career start at home. Bostick, who began the season as Pitt's No. 3 QB, went 20-of-28 for 191 yards and an interception.
Bostick looked unsteady at times while playing in relief during a 34-14 loss to Connecticut and a 44-14 defeat at Virginia in which he started, but he and fellow freshman McCoy had no trouble moving the ball against a Navy defense that gave up 138 points in its previous four games. McCoy has 668 yards in his first six college games.
Earlier this week, Wannstedt challenged Bostick to score at least 28 points, saying any number less than that wouldn't be enough. Bostick got the 28, plus 17 more, but it still wasn't enough.
"If you're scoring 44 points, you're doing something right but if you're not winning games ..." Bostick said.
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