Pittsburgh defeats West Virginia 38-31 in front of record Backyard Brawl crowd

The Backyard Brawl was back on Thursday night, ending in a 38-31 victory for the Pittsburgh Panthers over West Virginia at Acrisure Stadium. It was a Pittsburgh sports record crowd for the rivalry matchup, with over 70,000 fans in attendance.

West Virginia (0-1) attacked the air as promised on its opening drive, with quarterback JT Daniels firing two completions before a bobbled snap halted the drive at midfield. A Pittsburgh (1-0) punt on its opening drive gave WVU the ball back just past the 50-yard line.

After an Oliver Straw punt in WVU’s second drive pins Pittsburgh on its own three-yard line, Pitt transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis fires a pass to senior WR Jared Wayne for 20 yards to kick start the drive, capping it off with a 42-yard kick from Ben Sauls to give the Panthers the 3-0 lead.

The tight end turned running back CJ Donaldson made his impact felt early in WVU’s third drive, taking his first college rushing attempt 44 yards and setting up a 10-yard passing touchdown from JT Daniels to wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton for the 7-3 West Virginia advantage.

After another great punt from Pitt’s special teams pinned West Virginia on its own one-yard line, a personal foul against the Panthers pulled WVU up to the 16-yard line, ultimately ending in a punt for the Mountaineers.

Two fumbles back-and-forth give backup Pittsburgh running back Rodney Hammond Jr. and the Panthers a chance to take advantage of the turnover quickly, where they power in a rushing touchdown from four-yards out to take the 10-7 lead late in the second half.

The Mountaineers on the arm of Daniels and the hands of Ford-Wheaton answer on the following drive before half, getting down to the seven-yard line before chipping in a 24-yard Casey Legg field goal, tying the game at 10-10 at the half.

The second half starts out hot for WVU, forcing a punt on Pitt’s opening drive which is blocked by Donaldson, setting the Mountaineers up on the opposition’s five-yard line. Donaldson is immediately rewarded for his effort, fighting across the goal line for the rushing score on the next play to put West Virginia up 17-10.

Two defensive stands gave Pittsburgh back the ball on its own 30-yard line, where a long 64-yard catch and run from Slovis to Wayne put the Panthers on the one-yard line, capped off by running back Daniel Carter’s rushing score to tie the game at 17-17 in the third quarter.

Pittsburgh, after making a defensive stop, leaned on Hammond for more plays in the third, with the tailback breaking away on a 49-yard completion before powering in an 11-yard rushing touchdown on the next play, putting the Panthers up 24-17.

West Virginia with the Daniels and Ford-Wheaton connection answered back quickly, with Daniels dropping in a 16-yard back-shoulder fade for their second touchdown of the night, making the score once again tied up at 24-24.

In the fourth quarter West Virginia came up with the crucial stop, leading to another 39-yard run from Donaldson to put West Virginia in Panther’s territory. Daniels caps off this drive on the ground, following his offensive line for the one-yard touchdown and the WVU lead in the fourth, 31-24.

The Panthers stormed back on a 92-yard scoring drive, capped with a 24-yard passing touchdown from Slovis to running back Israel Abanikanda, bringing the game back to a tie, at 31-31.

On the ensuing drive, Daniels was intercepted on a long pass tipped in the air, returned by cornerback MJ Devonshire for a 56-yard touchdown for the Panthers, making the score 38-31 Pittsburgh.

West Virginia had a chance in Pittsburgh territory on the final drive of the game, but came one catch short before turning the ball over on downs. Pittsburgh closed out the 38-31 win, taking the first Backyard Brawl in 11 years.

West Virginia will play its home opener in its next game, facing off against the Kansas Jayhawks on Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. Streaming will be available on ESPN+.

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