WVU vs. PITT: The Mountaineer defense proves dominant in the ‘Backyard Bowl’

By Zippy Zimmerman, RealWV

Although Mountaineer quarterback Garrett Greene went down with an injury midway through the first quarter, freshman quarterback Nicco Marchiol was able to step up in the biggest game of his young career. A stellar performance from the defense assisted Marchiol in securing a win in the Backyard Brawl by a final score of 17 – 6.

There were over 60,000 in attendance in Morgantown for the 106th meeting between the two teams. Marchiol took to his socials after the game, stating, “That’s for West Virginia. The support was unreal. Thank you mountaineer nation for a memorable night for all of us.”

Pittsburgh struck first with a 21-yard field goal from kicker Ben Sauls. Down 3 – 0 minutes in the first quarter, the Mountaineers were unable to put any solid offensive drives together early on. Greene, who went down with an apparent ankle injury, forced the team to have to turn to an unproven Marchiol.

Despite West Virginia’s offensive sputter, the defense was able to come up big due to an ill-advised throw from Pitt Quarterback Phil Jurkovec, which was intercepted by Junior safety Aubrey Burks. The Mountaineers would retain possession of the football with 4:50 left in the second.

On the first offensive snap following the interception, West Virginia would finally get themselves on the board with a seven-yard strike from Marchiol, to junior tight end Kole Taylor. With that touchdown, the Mountaineers took the lead, putting the score at 7-3 with 4:46 left in the second.

60,000+ fans stripe Milan Puskar Stadium for Backyard Brawl. Photo by Wyatt Deleon.

West Virginia’s offense struggled to formulate any substantial offensive drives all throughout the first half, but their defense, in large, kept the Mountaineers in the game. The Panthers would only go on to score another field goal in the first half, and that would end up being the final points they produced for the remainder of the game.

West Virginia’s defense forced three interceptions, and held the Panthers to just 4 of 13 on third downs, forcing Pitt to punt 4 times. The Mountaineer defense also held Pitt to just 81 passing yards on the night. Offensively for WVU, they’d only accumulate for a total of 211 yard of total offense—matching Pitt for their total as well, and turn over the ball to the Panther’s defense once—giving West Virginia a 3-1 turnover advantage for the game. An overall outstanding performance for a defense many consider to be one of the worst in the country.

WVU running back CJ Donaldson went on to score on a one-yard scamper midway through the third, and kicker Micheal Hayes would drill a 42-yard field goal to make the final 17-6 WVU. Not a very pretty night offensively for West Virginia, but Head Coach Neal Brown noted after the game “They call it the Brawl for a reason. That wasn’t a thing of beauty… but regardless of what it was, it was a win for West Virginia.”

The Mountaineers will now prepare to take on a very good 2-1 Texas Tech team whose only loss was to 13th Ranked Oregon in a one score defeat. The status on starting quarterback Garrett Greene remains unknown for the time being, but West Virginia’s future in the quarterback department looks bright if Marchiol’s performance is a sign of things to come. West Virginia will look to study film tomorrow and begin their preparation for the Red Raiders on Monday.


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