The Backyard Brawl returns to the gridiron

WTAP News @ 6 - The Backyard Brawl returns to the gridiron
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 3:52 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - After 11 years of West Virginia University and the University of Pittsburgh not meeting on the football field, the Backyard Brawl is back!

Many former Mountaineers are excited to see this game back.

“I’m sure the environment’s going to be incredible,” says former Mountaineer offensive lineman, Josh Jenkins. “I mean people have been looking forward to this for years and to have this game back and it’s honestly a game that should be played every year. It’s so close and it’s just too good of a rivalry and two good atmospheres to not have this game played.”

Fans of West Virginia are also excited to see this game return.

As one report by Vivid Seats says that West Virginia has the advantage with fan attendance playing at Pittsburgh.

“It’s expecting it to be at capacity on a Thursday night,” says former Mountaineer punter, Mike Molinari. “So, I just feel like from both sides of the rivalry, yeah, it’s been too long.”

This rivalry is one with a lot of bad blood.

This is especially true for former long snapper, Cody Nutter who has family – who are diehard steelers fans – out in Pittsburgh.

“So, me going there and getting a taste of Pittsburgh in a different light as a player against them,” says Nutter. “I mean I know it wasn’t the Steelers, but the Pitt Panthers playing in the same stadium and all that kind of changed my mind set a little bit on the whole town of Pittsburgh really.”

This rivalry has also been filled with many memorable moments.

Such as the 2009 game in Morgantown where WVU beat Pitt 19-16 off of a game-winning field goal to upset the eighth-ranked panthers.

This coming after the Mountaineers were upset by Pitt in 2007 in the same stadium with a potential national championship appearance on the line.

“That was the biggest rebuttal in my mind,” says Nutter. “Getting to see my kicker, Tyler Bitancurt get carried off the field and had the interview with Erin Andrews at ESPN and all that. It was a good comeback.”

Overall, all of these players – including those who grew up watching WVU football and the Backyard Brawl – say that they are thankful to be a part of this historic rivalry.

“I feel just blessed to be a part of the history and being able to be a kid from Parkersburg, West Virginia to get a chance to play in that game multiple times. And really just blessed at the opportunity to be able to play, start as many games as I did at West Virginia and have the history there with being a West Virginia kid and going to West Virginia and getting to partake in this Backyard Brawl,” says Jenkins. “It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

And now, a new group of West Virginia natives are getting the chance to experience this rivalry.

“The thing I love most about this roster is, and I think what Coach Brown has done a really good job of is how many West Virginia natives have an impact in this game. And so, again, going back to understanding a rivalry, understanding growing up with it, if you think about Dante Stills and I think we’re starting three offensive linemen all from West Virginia,” says Molinari. “He made that a focus when he came in that we’re going to get those guys and we’re going to have them. I took that same approach with a guy like Casey Legg.”

The game will be taking place tonight at 7 p.m. as the Mountaineers travel to Pittsburgh to play the Panthers at Acrisure Stadium.