The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

What winning the 2023 Backyard Brawl means for the Panthers, Mountaineers

Pitt+students+in+Oakland+take+photos+of+the+Victory+Lights+after+Pitt+defeated+WVU+in+the+Backyard+Brawl+on+Thursday+September+1st%2C+2022.
Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer
Pitt students in Oakland take photos of the Victory Lights after Pitt defeated WVU in the Backyard Brawl on Thursday September 1st, 2022.

Last September, the Backyard Brawl returned and Pitt defeated rival West Virginia 38-31. The game was the Thursday night opener to the college football season, and due to some late-game heroics, the Panthers came out on top. 

The Panthers used the momentum and finished the season 9-4 with a win over UCLA in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl. The Mountaineers never recovered from their opening-day defeat, finishing 5-7 for their third losing season in four years under head coach Neal Brown. 

While the 105th edition of the Backyard Brawl changed the trajectory of both teams’ seasons, the 106th edition has even higher stakes.

Both teams come into the game 1-1. The Panthers won their first game of the season against Wofford before falling to Cincinnati. The Mountaineers fell to rival Penn State in week 1, before rebounding against Duquesne in week 2. 

But with the way both the Panthers and Mountaineers started their seasons, this year’s Backyard Brawl feels like more than just a regional rivalry. 

What does a win mean for the Panthers?

Panic averted. A win over the Mountaineers is equivalent to the calm before the storm that is their upcoming schedule. The Panthers return home the following week to host No. 20 North Carolina in their first ACC matchup of the year. 

The Panthers then have three consecutive ACC contests against Virginia Tech, Louisville and Wake Forest before heading to South Bend, Indiana, to take on No. 9 Notre Dame. The Panthers also have No. 3 Florida State — who received three first-place votes in the latest AP poll — on the schedule in November. The Panthers finish the season against No. 21 Duke in Durham, NC.

The Panthers’ schedule is tough. A loss to the Mountaineers would put the Panthers into a sense of panic. The Panthers already lost at home against Cincinnati in a game that they were favored in. 

A win over West Virginia also allows for fans to forgive redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec. Jurkovec criticized Panthers fans for their boos in their loss to the Bearcats.

“I think if you’re a grown-ass man booing in that stadium, then you gotta look at things yourself,” Jurkovec said in a post-game press conference. “I think that’s pathetic.”

If Jurkovec was offended about the Panthers booing him, he is in a rude awakening heading into a sold-out enemy crowd at Mountaineer Field. That crowd will be anything but kind to the quarterback. 

Things will just get worse for him with a loss to the Mountaineers. Losing to the Panthers’ biggest rival after calling his own fans “pathetic” would kill all momentum Jurkovec had coming into the season and ruin his relationship with both the fans and the rest of the team.

After Kenny Pickett, Panthers’ fans do not have patience for bad play at the quarterback. Just ask their previous quarterback Kedon Slovis. A win on Saturday is huge for the Panthers’ season — as well as their quarterback.

What does a win mean for the Mountaineers?

For one, couch sales in Morgantown will skyrocket with a win over the Panthers. Their tradition of couch burning after big victories will continue if they get revenge against their foes. 

More importantly, the win adds security to Brown. Brown has coached the Mountaineers since 2019 and outside of the shortened Covid-19 season, they haven’t finished with a winning season. 

And people have noticed. Oddsmakers named Brown as the coach with the highest odds of being the first fired in 2023. To me, a loss to the Panthers is the final nail in the coffin for Brown’s career at West Virginia.

However, the Mountaineers played admirably against Penn State and thoroughly dominated FCS opponent Duquesne. The Mountaineers are competent enough to knock off the Panthers, and they almost won last year in Pittsburgh. This time the game is in their own stadium, in front of their own fans. 

Another benefit of a win over the Panthers is that the Mountaineers’ remaining schedule is light compared to the Panthers. Outside of No. 19 Oklahoma, West Virginia doesn’t have any remaining ranked opponents on their schedule. A win on Saturday could lead to Brown’s first winning season since that 2020 shortened season. 

Both teams want to defeat their regional rival, but this year the stakes are higher. The Panthers and Mountaineers both have different challenges ahead of them. The difficulty of those challenges, though, all depends on the results of this Saturday’s Backyard Brawl.

About the Contributor
Jermaine Sykes, Assistant Sports Editor
Jermaine Sykes is the Assistant Sports Editor for The Pitt News. He is a part of the College of Business and Administration class of 2024 and is double majoring in Marketing and Human Resources Management. He is also pursuing a Sports Management certificate and an Economics minor. He has written over 90 articles as a member of the sports staff.