MORGANTOWN — On West Virginia’s teaching employees, nobody is aware of the Yard Brawl higher than first-year tight ends coach Blaine Stewart.
Stewart, the son of former Mountaineer head coach Invoice Stewart, grew up attending video games between WVU and its bitter rival Pitt. He began so early, in actual fact, that he can barely keep in mind his first few Brawls.
“My first one would have been 2000, my dad’s first 12 months (teaching),” Stewart stated throughout a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. “However I used to be so younger, I can’t even keep in mind if we beat Pitt or not. I actually keep in mind it beginning to choose up in 2002. That’s actually the primary reminiscence I’ve as a result of we went as much as Pittsburgh and beat them. That was an ideal win and it actually catapulted Coach (Wealthy) Rodriguez’s begin to his tenure.”
On Saturday, 23 years after attending his first Yard Brawl, Stewart could have the chance to educate within the storied rivalry when the Mountaineers (1-1) host the Panthers (1-1) for the primary time in Morgantown since 2011 (7:30 p.m., ABC). It is usually the Mountaineers’ first true dwelling night time recreation since 2016.
“That is going to be an unbelievable alternative for West Virginia as an entire to point out off our fanbase and present our delight and loyalty,” Stewart stated. “From my perspective, being the previous historian of this system, I might assume that is in all probability the most-hyped dwelling recreation since LSU in 2011.”
The Brawl went on ice when the Large East dissolved in 2012, and was lastly renewed final season with a record-setting crowd at Acrisure Stadium. That recreation, a 38-31 Pitt victory, helped open the eyes of present WVU coaches and gamers to what the rivalry is all about.
“It’s nobody’s fault that folks new to this system didn’t actually perceive the magnitude of the sport,” Stewart stated. “I feel final 12 months, with the result and the nice crowd, it actually turned evident to everybody. Now, we simply wish to be sure the brand new guys perceive the depth. The individuals who performed in it final 12 months, they know from the bounce what kind of recreation that is and why it’s vital to so many individuals.”
Stewart, nonetheless, is aware of precisely what to anticipate on Saturday.
“I simply suppose it’s an ideal alternative for folks to have the delight in a recreation which means quite a bit to folks,” he stated. “It’s simply particular for thus many causes and I feel when folks see the environment Saturday night time, it opens folks’s eyes a bit that it is a huge deal, that is completely different.”
Rising up within the heyday of the Yard Brawl, when WVU and Pitt would play yearly as members of the Large East, Stewart has a deep understanding of the rivalry and what it means to previous generations of WVU followers.
“It means quite a bit to lots of people. Folks wish to beat Pitt on this city and, equally so, folks in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania wish to beat us,” he stated. “I simply suppose the historical past, the familiarity over all the rivalry reveals how vital it’s. They wish to beat Pitt greater than they wish to win different video games. In the event you beat Pitt, it’s alright what occurs different weeks.”
Stewart estimates that he attended almost each Yard Brawl from 2000-2010. He was at each recreation in Morgantown, however missed out on going to Pittsburgh a number of instances, like in 2006 when center college basketball tryouts prevented him and his mother from making the drive up I-79.
“I used to be in sixth grade and I used to be attempting to make the basketball group at St. Francis,” Stewart recalled. “I had observe and simply couldn’t rise up there in time in order that was in all probability my first reminiscence of duty getting in the way in which of enjoyable. I keep in mind watching it in my basement with my mother. She cooked some meals and we watched Pat White and Steve Slaton run in every single place.”
White threw for 204 yards and ran for 220 with 4 whole touchdowns, whereas Slaton had 215 speeding yards, 130 receiving yards and in addition scored 4 instances.
“I’ve really bought an image signed by Pat, Steve and all the offensive line in my basement,” Stewart stated. “That’s a type of uncommon, historic footage in Mountaineers historical past so I’m going to carry on to that endlessly.
Paradoxically, despite the fact that he wasn’t capable of go to the sport, watching it along with his mom nonetheless changed into a cherished reminiscence. Reminiscences of watching the Brawl is one thing the youngest era of Mountaineer followers missed out on whereas the sequence was dormant for 10 years.
“For younger Mountaineer followers, I hope they really feel the significance of it and I hope their mother and father and older folks of their lives share reminiscences,” Stewart stated. “There are some nice reminiscences, a whole lot of good and a whole lot of dangerous.”
The reminiscences Stewart makes on Saturday, good or dangerous, shall be completely distinctive in his private historical past with the rivalry. Will probably be his first Yard Brawl not as a fan or as a coach’s son, however as a coach himself standing on the sideline.
“My largest job is to ensure the gamers are able to go,” Stewart stated. “I’ve instructed the blokes there are a whole lot of issues happening round this recreation, however the primary factor is the result of this recreation. When all the things stops and we lastly kick the ball off, there’s one recreation that vital to us proper now.”
WVU is 7-6 in opposition to Pitt since 2000. The Mountaineers had gained three Brawls in a row previous to the Panthers’ victory final 12 months.
“For me, there are a whole lot of household and a whole lot of mates coming into city that I’m enthusiastic about, however as soon as that factor kicks off, we’ve bought to ensure we’re able to go and deal with it between the white strains. With out that, none of this may even be attainable,” Stewart stated. “I simply suppose when it comes to what that is going to be like, it’s going to be an unbelievable alternative to showcase who we’re and who we may be transferring ahead as a program.”