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COLUMN: WVU’s largest win in years wasn’t fairly, but it surely was satisfying

It actually wasn’t fairly — few issues throughout Neal Brown’s tenure at WVU have been — however the Mountaineers picked up their largest win in years, 17-6, over rival Pitt Saturday evening inside Milan Puskar Stadium.

“They name it the Brawl for a cause,” Brown stated. “That wasn’t a factor of magnificence. They’re not going to speak about the fantastic thing about that recreation for a very long time, however no matter what it was, it was a win for West Virginia.”

It was the primary time the Yard Brawl has been performed in Morgantown since 2011, which was additionally the final time the Mountaineers defeated their bitter rivals after dropping 38-31 when the rivalry was renewed in Pittsburgh final season.

“It’s been one thing that’s caught with us for 54 weeks,” Brown stated of final 12 months’s loss. “We had a lead within the fourth quarter 54 weeks in the past and we didn’t end.”

The Mountaineers have been validated in some ways with Saturday’s win. The group not solely avenged final season’s loss but additionally picked up the largest group in Brown’s 5 years as head.

“I’m so glad for our workers and the households of the workers,” Brown stated. “There’s been negativity and I can tune it out, I stay in a bubble. Our workers and their households need to cope with that, in order that they shouldn’t need to cope with that for per week.”

In a recreation the place neither group trusted their quarterback to throw the ball, Pitt quarterback Phil Jurkovec was dreadful finishing simply eight passes for 81 yards with a trio of interceptions in a dreadful efficiency. In whole, the Panthers have been intercepted thrice, turned the ball over on downs twice and dedicated 9 penalties.

WVU’s quarterback play wasn’t a lot better with backup quarterback Nicco Marchiol taking part in within the place of injured starter Garrett Greene. Greene, the “heart-and-soul” of the Mountaineers in accordance with Brown, went down on the group’s second possession of the sport, forcing Marchiol into motion.

The redshirt freshman solely threw for 60 yards however prevented main errors. It was the second time in Marchiol’s younger profession that he has entered a recreation as an damage alternative and guided the group to a win, additionally doing so in final 12 months’s finale at Oklahoma State. 

Marchiol didn’t take time to soak all of it in till he was taking a knee on the finish of the sport.

“That’s once I actually was trying round and realizing what had simply been achieved,” he stated. “We had not overwhelmed them since 2011, that’s one thing we’ve talked about all week. That’s one thing you’ll be able to visualize, taking the knee on the very finish, however to do it on the market in actual time felt like a dream.”

WVU’s offense ran via bruising operating again CJ Donaldson, who broke out for 125 speeding yards in final 12 months’s Brawl. He adopted up that efficiency Saturday by speeding 18 instances for 102 yards and a second-half landing that put them up 17-6.

He exited the sport with an damage within the third quarter, however Marchiol, backup tailback Jaylen Anderson and the protection have been in a position to do exactly sufficient to bleed the fourth-quarter clock and safe the win.

“It’s undoubtedly particular,” Donaldson stated. “It’s so superb understanding that we’re the group who beat Pitt in 2023 and we haven’t overwhelmed them since 2011.

To the Mountaineers’ credit score, the much-maligned WVU protection held Pitt out of the endzone, solely permitting a pair of area objectives. After Pitt drove for 67 yards on its opening drive, all on the bottom, the Mountaineers solely allowed 144 yards the remainder of the sport.

WVU’s protection was the star within the second half, holding Pitt to only 73 yards and solely 4 first downs. Burks, Beanie Bishop and Malachi Ruffin had the Mountaineers’ interceptions. Tyrin Bradley had a sack on fourth-and-20 to flip possession late within the recreation.

“We’re a troublesome soccer group, we’re a mentally powerful soccer group, we’re a bodily powerful soccer group,” Brown stated. “I assumed that confirmed. It was ugly and we play ugly ball.”

The win not solely comes at an important time for the soccer group, which begins Massive 12 convention play subsequent week, but additionally at a time when the educational aspect of the college is in turmoil with fixed discuss of cuts and workers reductions.

For just a few hours on Saturday evening, the 61,106 followers inside Milan Puskar Stadium have been in a position to put apart all their worries and luxuriate in a Mountaineer victory.

“Our state wanted this, our college wanted this, our soccer program wanted this,” Brown stated. “It is a big win on a bunch of various ranges and that’s not misplaced on us.”