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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • 8:37 am

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Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • 8:37 am

West Virginia student newspaper breaks down the Mountaineers ahead of Backyard Brawl

Woodburn+Hall+on+West+Virginia+University+downtown+campus+is+shown+April%2C+24%2C+2015%2C+in+Morgantown%2C+W.Va.
AP Photo | Raymond Thompson
Woodburn Hall on West Virginia University downtown campus is shown April, 24, 2015, in Morgantown, W.Va.

After taking down West Virginia in a close battle at Acrisure Stadium last year, Pitt football will look to build off of their past success as they take on the Mountaineers in Morgantown. 

The Panthers will look to return to Pittsburgh with a win following a game against a sellout crowd in Morgantown, where they return for the first time since 2011. In order to gain some insight on the upcoming matchup, The Pitt News spoke with Luke Blain — sports editor of West Virginia’s student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum.

The excitement on campus is already building

Regardless of on-field performance, Morgantown and the campus of West Virginia consistently support their football team. Even against non-rivalry opponents, Morgantown turns into a football town every Saturday. Blain said that the football team is something that West Virginians take a lot of pride in and that this week is no different.

“The atmosphere around Morgantown has already been really exciting,” Blain said.

Blain described the atmosphere around campus as “electric” and explained that while Pitt plays in a city with major sports, West Virginia does not. The Mountaineers are the most followed team in West Virginia, and therefore, there is always much energy surrounding West Virginia football. When rivalry is factored in, this increases exponentially.

The Mountaineer faithful are excited to host their first Backyard Brawl matchup since defeating Pitt in a 21-20 nail-biter at Mountaineer Field in 2011. This is the Mountaineers’ second Brawl coached by fifth-year head coach Neal Brown after losing to Pitt 38-31 at Acrisure Stadium last year.

“This is something fans have been looking forward to now, given the result of last year,” Blain said.

West Virginia has consistently ranked within the upper echelon of the Big 12 when it comes to the football fan experience, besting schools such as Texas and Oklahoma. Morgantown expects quite a spectacle for this year’s edition of the Brawl.

Expect an intimidating home crowd

The atmosphere will prove to intimidate Pitt as they travel there for the first time in 12 years.

“I’m expecting the atmosphere to be like no other that I have been to,” Blain said.

As Pitt set a Pittsburgh sports attendance record at last year’s Brawl, the Mountaineers will look to create a very lively atmosphere for this year’s edition. Blain talked about his experience at the game last year against Baylor, as he expects a similar crowd to that game, but with more people in attendance.

“I just remember it being deafeningly loud,” Blain said about the Baylor game. “And I don’t think that was a sold-out game.”

Due to the bitter nature of the Backyard Brawl, West Virginia and their fans expect to create an intimidating environment for the visiting Panthers. Pitt has not won in Morgantown since the famous “13-9” game that knocked the Mountaineers out of BCS contention in 2007.

What the rivalry means to West Virginia students 

As this is the first time that the Brawl returns to Morgantown in 12 years, many fans of the teams were either not alive or not following college football the last time it was played there. Blain talked about his own experience and what the rivalry means to him.

“I started educating myself and I was like, man, these people, they really hate Pitt,” Blain said.

As one of the longest played rivalries in college football with 105 total meetings, the Backyard Brawl manifests itself as a divisive event throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Many families have members who have attended both universities, leading to an energetic regional rivalry. Now that it has returned, it brings a whole new group of fans to the table. 

“We’re seeing kind of a new era of it being ushered in,” Blain said. “And it’s the big return.”

Many students will watch their teams battle for just the second time, and first-years will get to experience it for the first time.

Players to Watch Out For and Predictions

Blain stressed the importance of West Virginia’s offensive line heading into their matchup against the Panthers, which returns four of five starters from the previous season. He additionally highlighted sophomore running back CJ Donaldson, West Virginia’s number one option throughout the season. 

The Panthers will look to put both of Blain’s selections to the test, as they will arrive in Morgantown with a robust defensive line.

In a major test for the Panthers, they must perform well on both sides of the ball to best a strong West Virginia team on their home turf. 

About the Contributor
Ari Meyer, Staff Writer