Mountaineers Brawl their way to 17-6 victory over Pitt The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast

West Virginia's win in the Backyard Brawl wasn't exactly pretty, but it was definitely gritty. It was that grit that led to a 17-6 victory over the Panthers in the first showdown between the two teams in Morgantown since 2011. 

Saturday night’s grind-it-out, 17-6 victory over Pitt was West Virginia’s 41st victory in the series. The Panthers may still hold the all-time edge, but WVU’s latest Brawl win continued the Mountaineers’ run of dominance.

Like almost every meeting between the Mountaineers and Panthers, last night’s contest provided plenty of nuggets and events that have not happened often in the rivalry.

Here are some of the most noteworthy notes and statistics to come out of WVU’s latest Brawl victory.

Continued success vs. Pitt

West Virginia is now 17-8-1 against the Panthers since the start of the 1988 season. WVU has won five out of the last six meetings in Morgantown and four of the last five meetings, overall.

Since the start of the ’88 season, WVU has outscored Pitt by a combined score of 804-530.

Speaking of scoring …

West Virginia’s defense did something that has rarely happened on either side over the last three-plus decades of the rivalry: hold the opposition to single digits.

On the strength of three interceptions, WVU held the Panthers to just six points on the night. That marked the fewest points given up by either side in the series since 1996. That was the second year of back-to-back shutouts pitched by the Mountaineers. In fact, Don Nehlen’s squad held the Panthers to six or fewer points three times in the 1990s.

The most recent instance of one of the offenses being kept to fewer than 10 points was in 2007. Aside from the 22 combined points scored that night in Morgantown, you have to go back to WVU’s 21-0 shutout in 1995 to find the last time the two teams combined for fewer than the 23 points they scored on Saturday.

100 yards rushing

Over the last two seasons, CJ Donaldson has rushed for 227 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers.

By once again eclipsing 100 yards Saturday night, he became the first player to rush for 100 or more yards in back-to-back years of the Backyard Brawl game since Pitt’s LeSean McCoy in 2007 and 08.

Pat White and Steve Slaton each accomplished the feat in 2005 and 06, with White gaining at least 200 yards on the ground in both contests.

WVU’s all-time leading rusher, Avon Cobourne, is the last player on either side to rush for 100 or more yards three times in the Backyard Brawl. He accomplished the feat in back-to-back years in 1999 and 2000, and then again in 2002. Donaldson will have a chance to match that accomplishment next season.

A sold-out crowd at Mountaineer Field

The 2022 revival of the Backyard Brawl brought 70,622 fans inside Acrisure Stadium, setting the all-time attendance record for a sporting event in the Steel City. A sellout crowd of 61,006 fans packed inside Mountaineer Field for the game’s return to Morgantown.

For reference, that is the largest recorded attendance for a Backyard Brawl game played in Morgantown since 2003, when more than 67,000 spectators watched Quincy Wilson and company throttle the Panthers.

Saturday night’s crowd was the fourth sellout in the Neal Brown era. The largest home crowd over the past five seasons was 62,069 against Texas in 2019. Earlier that season, 61,891 fans stood inside Milan Puskar Stadium to see Brown’s first game as the Mountaineer head coach.

Not a lot of passing (Part One)

With Garrett Greene knocked out of the game early on, West Virginia leaned heavily on its rushing attack. Of the Mountaineers’ 211 total yards of offense, only 60 were gained through the air by Nicco Marchiol.

That is the fewest passing yards in a WVU football victory since Oct. 11, 2008, when the Mountaineers amassed just 52 passing yards in a win over Syracuse.

Somehow West Virginia has now thrown for 70 or fewer yards six times against the Panthers, dating back to 1974. WVU is 3-3 in such games, and has won three of the last four, dating back to 1988.

The Mountaineers last did it in 2005, when they needed just 41 yards through the air to put up 45 points on Pitt.

Not a lot of passing (Part Two)

On the flip side, WVU’s defense held Phil Jurkovec to 81 passing yards on the night.

It marked the fourth time since 1995 that West Virginia’s D has held Pitt’s O to fewer than 100 passing yards. The last time was in 2007, when Pat Bostick needed just 67 yards through the air to upend the Mountaineers.

Prior to that, WVU’s defense held Matt Lytle and company in check back-to-back seasons in 1995 and 96. Lytle and his backup failed to hit the century mark in passing in either of the games, and Pitt failed to put a single point on the scoreboard in both games.

Outside of the Brawl, the last time WVU held any team to fewer than 100 passing yards was last year against Towson (98). The last time WVU’s defense held a Power 5 program to less than 100 yards through the air was on Oct. 17, 2020, against Kansas (95).

West Virginia has now held three Power 5 opponents to fewer than 100 passing yards since the start of the 2013 season.