So Rich led his charges down to the land of the castrated turkey, and handed out a little dish of smash mouth football. And the fans on the southeastern side of the state have a little peace and quiet for a while.
That leads us back up to the north. Everything that has ever been said about a rivalry has been said to discuss the Backyard Brawl. Only now, there is actually something on the line except pride. Both teams enter the game ranked in the top 25 for the first time since the 9th ranked Mountaineers blew a 31-9 fourth quarter lead in 1989 and lost to the 10th ranked Panthers 31-31. Yes, lost. If you were there, or listened to it, you know that game was a loss for WVU.
The Backyard Brawl is for second place in the Big East.
The Backyard Brawl is for a berth in the Gator Bowl.
Does anymore really need to be said?
In Your Face
Not Oklahoma, not Syracuse, nor BC, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Kentucky, Rutgers or Temple. Pitt.
Bank One in Charleston will have their BEAT PITT sign rotating around the top of the building. It's that important to Mountaineer fans.
The younger fan may not understand the WVU-Pitt rivalry, and that is somewhat understandable. After the 1989 season, Pitt took a downward spiral during the 90s that actually saw them lose two games in a row to Temple.
Pitt fans like to point to the triple overtime game in 1997 as the turning point of their program. People around here remember that game. WVU was a double digit favorite. The fans didn't take the game seriously, for they didn't show for the game. The team came out flat and almost got run out of their own building in the first half. Jay Taylor hit a 52 yard field goal in overtime to put the Mountaineers on top, and when WVU stopped Pitt on third and Mon County, the fans erupted. Someone forgot to tell Pepe Sanchez to take a knee on fourth down and Pitt's prayers were answered for a TD. Game over.
But the older fan remembers. They remember losing to Pitt seven times in a row from 1976-1982. They remember the heartbreaking 16-13 loss in the last game of that string. The really die hard fan also remembers losing 23 out of 25 to Pitt from 1924-1951. And they remember how they were treated by those "more civilized" people.
There have been good games, blow outs, charges of running up the score, and a Pitt public address announcer with his "EIEIO" West Virginia license plate joke during the game. References to the "Coal Miner's Slaughter". Hoopie jokes. Pitt has won in the last seconds, WVU has won in the last seconds. Pitt has won big, and so has WVU.
This game will be a brass knuckle brawl. And the Mountaineers have shown week in and week out that they will not be out hit by anyone. On the other side, here come the Panthers. Heads shaved, clothes ripped, steel toed boots. Faces painted, with attitude spilling all over the place.
I can't wait.
There's not a lot of clean play in the trenches of the Brawl