PITTSBURGH -- A whistle sounded prematurely, stripping Bowling Green of a possible game-winning touchdown and giving a second chance to Pittsburgh, a Top 25 team that probably didn't deserve such a break.
So Bowling Green went out and forced yet another mistake that assured Pitt of a loss the Panthers never seemed to believe might happen until the game was over.
Tyler Sheehan ran 11 yards for a touchdown on a quarterback draw early in the fourth quarter, two plays after Pittsburgh's fourth turnover, and Bowling Green rallied for a 27-17 upset of the No. 25 Panthers on Saturday.
"Unless you study the game, you don't understand the implications of a win like that," Falcons coach Gregg Brandon said. "We're not supposed to beat these people."
Falcons linebacker John Haneline and several teammates read earlier in the week that no MAC team had won at Pitt.
"Everybody just said, 'Why not us now, why wait?' " Haneline said.
Why not, indeed.
Anthony Turner scored on an 8-yard run set up by quarterback Sheehan's 22-yard completion to fullback Jimmy Scheidler, who earlier scored two touchdowns, to give Bowling Green its first lead at 20-17 with 3:53 left in the third quarter.
With Pitt rushing for only 46 yards in the final three quarters after outgaining the Falcons 137-6 in the first quarter, Kenny Lewis caused Cedric McGee's fumble that Lewis scooped up for an apparent 67-yard scoring return with 13:30 remaining.
An inadvertent whistle sent the ball back to the Falcons' 35 and Bowling Green was forced to punt. But on Pitt's next possession, cornerback Antonio Smith caused Bill Stull's fumble that Angelo Magnone returned six yards to the Pitt 11. Sheehan (24-of-40, 163 yards) scored two plays later.
"I didn't hear a whistle, it was probably some Pitt guy blowing the whistle," Brandon said, laughing.
It never mattered as Pitt was dealt its worst upset home loss since a 35-26 defeat in 2001 to Division I-A neophyte South Florida.
"We made so many mistakes today and the defense had my number," Pitt's LeSean McCoy said. "I'm sure the team is hurt. I'm sure nobody expected this. It's tough."
McCoy ran for 1,328 yards last year in the best freshman season by a Pitt runner since Tony Dorsett in 1973, but was held to 71 yards on 23 carries. He didn't have a run longer than 12 yards.
"We were hearing everything about LeSean McCoy and their great running game, so we wanted to make sure we handled that and tried to get them into passing," Haneline said.
Bowling Green was outgained 393-254 but still beat a Top 25 team for the first time since the-then No. 23 Falcons beat No. 12 Northern Illinois 34-18 on Oct. 21, 2003. They beat Minnesota 32-31 in their opener last season.
This was Pitt's first game since its 13-9 win at then-No. 2 West Virginia on Dec. 1 cost the Mountaineers a national championship game appearance and seemed to re-energize a program that hasn't had a winning season or gone to a bowl game since 2004.
The Panthers didn't resemble that team, just as Bowling Green didn't look like the team that lost 63-7 to Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl.
"That bowl loss lingered and I get asked about that to this day. That's done, I hope," Brandon said. "That's eight months of getting told they're no good."
Pittsburgh, a 13-point favorite, opened a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter after McCoy scored on an 11-yard run and Derek Kinder caught a 4-yard pass from Stull (29-of-51, 264 yards).
McCoy's fumble at the Falcons' 48 late in the second quarter led to Scheidler's 3-yard touchdown catch on a misdirection play on which everyone except Scheidler pulled right but the fullback was open in the left flat.
Bowling Green also relied on gadgetry to get back into the game, with wide receiver Freddie Barnes lining up at quarterback to throw a 3-yard scoring pass to Scheidler.
"They gave us some unusual formations and we had a tough time adjusting to it," said Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, who seemed befuddled by the loss.
Conor Lee's 36-yard field goal gave Pitt a 17-14 lad on the final play before halftime, but only after Pitt passed up the chance to go for a touchdown. Bowling Green's players noticed and took that as an encouraging sign that Pitt was tiring.
McCoy didn't seem to like the conservative play-calling, which came after Pitt punted from the Bowling Green 35 and 34 early in the game.
"It would have been nice to get a touchdown but, you know, we follow the leader," McCoy said of Wannstedt.