The return of one of college football's most intense rivalries was a total beauty. PIC: Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
What an absolutely brilliant start to the college football season.
The 14th-oldest rivalry in the United States returned to action on Thursday night, as #17 Pitt and West Virginia squared off in the 105 edition of the Backyard Brawl. It had all the dips, dives, and turns. It had fumbles, big hits, and a pick six. It was beautiful in every way, and it resulted with Pitt taking home a 38-31 win on their home turf in the first game at the newly-named Acrisure Stadium.
To fully appreciate the Backyard Brawl, it's important to start with the history of this rivalry. Morgantown, West Virginia & Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are only about 70 miles from each other. They fought for the same recruits, competed for the same fans, and developed an intense hatred for each other.
You'll hear the PG versions of their chants - "Let's Gooooooooo Mountaineers" *clap clap* and "Let's Go Pitt!" are obviously what you'll see the social media channels outcry, but the more explicit versions of "Eat Sh*t Pitt" and "F**k West Virginia" ring out even louder.
Hell, even Kedon Slovis embraced the hatred.
This matchup was oddly enough a clash of two quarterbacks who knew each other well. In 2019, USC's JT Daniels was poised to be one of the best QB's of the west coast. But when a knee injury in Game 1 ended his season, Kedon Slovis took over and immediately made waves. The emergence of Slovis led to Daniels transferring to Georgia, where he eventually lost his job to College Football Championship hero Stetson Bennett, and transferred yet again...to West Virginia. His first opponent as a Mountaineer was a QB who made waves in his first two years, struggled in year three, and found a new home at Pitt...Kedon Slovis. Full circle, right?
Neither Slovis nor Daniels were exceptional last night, but clear contributors emerged around them. West Virginia's Bryce Ford-Wheaton reeled in 9 passes for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns, and freshman CJ Donaldson shocked many as he ran for 125 yards, finding the end zone once. Pitt's sophomore running back Rodney Hammond ran in two touchdowns as well, rushing for 74 yards.
West Virginia defied Vegas and had a lead most of the game. But in the late stages, they surrendered a touchdown to Pitt to tie things up.
Then, local kid M.J. Devonshire stunned the crowd with this pick-six, and the Pitt crowd was on its feet.
If this is how rivalry games will work this year, then sign us up. Rekindling one of the greatest college football rivalries of all time was an excellent call by both these schools. Even if you're on the losing side, you can't ignore how electric of a gameday environment this was. Game on!