Mountaineer free safety Jahmile Addae knows how important this game is. Addae was forced to watch last season's tilt from the sidelines following shoulder surgery, but has played in two previous brawls in his freshman and sophomore seasons. The Panther offense, led by quarterback Tyler Palko, certainly has Addae's attention.
"They're a well balanced offense. Their quarterback is a winner. He just runs around and makes plays, and finds ways to win. He kind of reminds me of Brett Favre. He certainly needs to be accounted for."
One player that Addae and the Mountaineer secondary won't have to worry about this year is Larry Fitzgerald, who put on a clinic for the Mountaineers two years ago at Heinz Field, and in the first half of last year's prime-time affair at Mountaineer Field. You'd think that not having to worry about Fitzgerald would ease preparations for the West Virginia defense, but it's a double edged sword, according to Addae.
"Larry Fitzgerald is a once in a lifetime type of guy. You don't play those guys too often, which I'm happy for. They still have some guys that can make plays, like Lee and a couple of other guys. As far as worrying about one specific guy, it's more of a balanced threat this year. That can work for you or against you."
The "Lee" Addae refers to is sophomore receiver Greg Lee who has emerged as the leading receiver in the Big East, averaging better than 100 yards receiving per contest. While he certainly isn't as dangerous as Fitzgerald, he's still a guy that the defense will have to keep close tabs on all night come Thursday.
The Panthers also like to throw to the tight ends. In both losses for WVU this season, passes in the flat and over the middle to the tight ends have been a constant source of frustration.
"As far as the use of the tight ends, I don't know the exact numbers, but in comparison I'd say they match up with (Virginia Tech and Boston College," says Addae of the Panther passing game.
While the shot to play in a BCS bowl is slim as of right now, Addae promises that the Mountaineers have plenty to play for on Thanksgiving night.
"Basically it's something you always get psyched up for, because it's a rivalry game. Whether you're coming off a loss or a win, this is always a big game every year.
"You play this game, to get the highest level and the BCS is the pinnacle of college football as everybody knows. That's always going to be on the back of our minds, but right now the focus is to get ready to play Pitt. We're going to try to buckle down and get the W, then let the chips fall where they may."
Addae knows the importance of this game for the Mountaineers and for the fans especially. He says the annual Backyard Brawl is one of the hardest hitting games of the season.
"It gets pretty dirty, legally though. They're trying just as hard as we are. For it to be the season finale that puts a lot more emphasis on this one. I'm just ready to get the game on."
In just a few days, Addae and the Mountaineer defense will get a shot to prove that they're better than they've played at times this season. Coming against Pitt, on national TV, on Thanksgiving night...let's get it started!!!!