West Virginia beats Pitt, wins 106th Backyard Brawl
Mountaineers now 2-1, avenge last year’s loss to Panthers.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - West Virginia has done it, as they beat Pitt by a score of 17-6 to win the 106th Backyard Brawl.
After allowing the opening 3 points, West Virginia proceeded to dominate the game - albeit in defensive fashion, and with a new quarterback.
QB1 Garrett Greene, on the first drive of the game for WVU, was tackled on a short run and hurt his leg - he was taken back to the locker room and later ruled out for the rest of the game.
In came Nicco Marchiol, who led the WVU offense to 17 points and an incredibly important win over Pitt.
Marchiol and the offense struggled to finish drives with points early - until a 26-yard interception from Aubrey Burks gave the Mountaineer offense the ball on Pitt’s 7.
Marchiol found a wide-open Kole Taylor on a quick pass, who jumped into the end zone and gave WVU the 7-6 lead at the half.
Into the 2nd half, West Virginia opened their offensive possessions with a 1-yard TD run from CJ Donaldson, who bulldozed Pitt’s defense with 8 runs on the drive.
The Mountaineers would tack on a field goal near the end of the third, and would hold on through the fourth quarter to secure a massive win over Pitt.
Before the game, many questions were asked of WVU’s defense, especially after a lackluster showing early against Duquesne. Further, Neal Brown’s comments early in the week about changing starters/playing time in the secondary fueled speculation that Pitt QB Phil Jurkovec could have a breakout game against West Virginia tonight.
That did not happen - at all.
Jurkovec threw for an awful 8/20 for 81 yards with 3 interceptions (courtesy of Malachi Ruffin, Beanie Bishop Jr., and Aubrey Burks). He was pressured on many throws from the pocket by a relentless defensive line, and couldn’t string together any consistent drives past the opening drive of the game.
The grit and will shown by West Virginia’s defense tonight won them the game, and will be celebrated all across the state tonight and for weeks to come.
The Mountaineers only allowed 211 yards of offensive from the Panthers, forcing 4 punts and keeping Pitt completely out of the end zone.
Even with the great defensive showing, and great response after Garrett Greene’s injury by the offense, questions will linger ahead of the Texas Tech game next week.
Marchiol didn’t need to do too much tonight - he completed 6/9 passes for 60 yards and 1 TD, allowing his running backs to shine brightest on offense (CJ Donaldson: 18 att, 102 yards, 1 TD | Jaylen Anderson: 19 att, 62 yards).
That may not work next week against a Texas Tech offense that has the capability to score quickly.
Marchiol looked composed tonight - though he was sacked twice, he generally wasn’t pressured too much on his 9 dropbacks.
However, the Mountaineers only gained 211 yards of total offense - the same as Pitt - and without the three interceptions, this game could have been dramatically different.
If Marchiol continues at quarterback next week (or beyond), he will need to throw the ball more and show that West Virginia’s offense can pick up chunk plays when needed. That element wasn’t necessary tonight - again, thanks to the great defensive showing - and the lack of it did not hurt the Mountaineers. It was more important for WVU to not turn the ball over than it was to launch big plays downfield - Marchiol successfully won and led the game from the pocket, which is all that was necessary tonight.
Will the same hold true next week and beyond? That remains to be seen, but tonight, Marchiol and the Mountaineers are winners after a tough performance that showed the team’s willpower and grit.
NEAL BROWN’S POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE:
LIVE POSTGAME REACTION w/ATTICUS PEAD:
POSTGAME REACTION WITH HARRISON KLOPP & ATTICUS PEAD:
Copyright 2023 WDTV. All rights reserved.