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The Backyard Brawl was back for the first time since 2011, and it did not disappoint.
With Week Zero come and gone, the college football season really got underway on Thursday night, with the University of Pittsburgh taking down West Virginia, 38-31.
The Panthers got up to a 3-0 lead after forcing two Mountaineers punts, but West Virginia’s CJ Donaldson had a 44-yard carry to get their offense going. That drive finished with a JT Daniels six-yard touchdown pass to Sam James to give the Mountaineers a 7-3 lead.
The next four drives consisted of a combined 14 plays, as Pitt and West Virginia exchanged punts, and then exchanged fumbles lost. The Panthers recovered their fumble in good field position, though, and took just 35 yards to score, capping the drive with an impressive, strong run by Rodney Hammond Jr. to give Pittsburgh a 10-7 lead.
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West Virginia then answered with a 13-play, 74-yard drive in the final 3:23 that ended in a field goal to bring the game to halftime tied at 10. On 3rd and 10 out of field goal range, Daniels connected with Kaden Prather for 23 yards to keep the drive alive.
Out of the half, the Panthers went three-and-out, and then their fumble was blocked and returned to their own five-yard line. Donaldson ran it in for a five-yard score, giving the Mountaineers a 17-10 lead.
Both teams were stalled in their next drives, but when Pittsburgh got the ball back, Jared Wayne had an impressive catch-and-run for 64 yards. Fullback Daniel Carter hurdled over the pile for the final yard two plays later to get into the end zone and tied the game at 17.
After Pitt forced a three-and-out, Rodney Hammond took matters into his own hands, as he was responsible for the entire three-play drive. He had a two-yard rush, 49-yard catch-and-run, and 11-yard powerful rushing touchdown to give Pitt a 24-17 lead.
At the end of the third quarter, though, the Mountaineers put together a decent drive, mixed with some bad Pitt penalties. They opened up the fourth quarter with a back-shoulder fade to Bryce Ford-Wheaton for a 16-yard touchdown.
WEST VIRGINIA AND PITT KICK OFF WEEK 1 OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON WITH BACKYARD BRAWL RIVALRY GAME
Tied at 24, Pitt punted, and West Virginia responded with another awesome drive. Donaldson started it with a 39-yard carry, and three plays later, Tony Mathis Jr. ran for another 23. Daniels punched it in for a one-yard score.
Now down 31-24, Pitt marched into Mountaineers territory, and from their 24, Slovis dumped a pass off to Israel Abanikanda, who made several men miss and dove into the end zone, making it a 31-31 game with 3:41 to go.
After Donaldson ran for 14 yards on West Virginia’s first play of the drive, Daniels found a wide open Ford-Wheaton past midfield, but it went right through his hands and into M.J. Devonshire’s, who took it to the house for a pick-six and a 38-31 Pitt lead.
Now with less than three minutes to go down seven, the Mountaineers again took advantage of Panthers penalties, and were quickly inside Pitt’s 25. However, Daniels was sacked twice, and he faced a 4th and 16. Daniels found Reese Smith on a pass that was initially ruled a catch just short of the goal line, but review showed Smith lost possession in his dive, giving the Panthers the 38-31 win.
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It was the 105th playing of the Backyard Brawl, and it was Pitt’s first win over the Mountaineers since 2008.
Slovis completed 16 of his 24 passes for 308 yards and a score, while Jared Wayne’s 89 receiving yards were a team-high. Konata Mumpfield added five catches for 71 yards, while Hammond had 74 yards of 16 carries, two of them for scores.
Donaldson had seven carries for 125 yards and a touchdown for the Mountaineers, while Ford-Wheaton had nine catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns – but his one costly dropped was the game.