MORGANTOWN — It will likely be power towards power and weak spot towards weak spot when West Virginia and Pitt meet for the 106th version of the Yard Brawl tonight inside Milan Puskar Stadium.
This will likely be Pitt’s first sport at Mountaineer Discipline since a 21-20 WVU victory in 2011. It’s also the primary true night time sport in Morgantown since a sport towards Oklahoma in 2016.
The groups are in an identical place early this season. Each groups are 1-1 coming into tonight’s sport (7:30 p.m., ABC) and have crushed an FCS workforce and misplaced to a Energy 5 workforce. Pitt misplaced to Cincinnati 27-21 final week whereas WVU fell to Penn State 38-15 in its season opener.
West Virginia’s stout offensive line will battle a Pitt entrance that leads the nation in sacks during the last 4 years whereas the Panther’s sputtering passing assault will go towards the Mountaineers’ leaky secondary.
The Panthers have seven sacks by way of the primary two weeks of the season, following the pattern that has seen Pitt lead the nation with 199 sacks during the last 4 years.
“The DNA of their program has been what they do on protection,” WVU head coach Neal Brown mentioned. “They wish to stress. I believe it all the time begins with the defensive position with these guys.”
Linebacker Kamara Bangally and lineman Dayon Hayes have already got two sacks every this season.
To fight Pitt’s cross rush, Brown mentioned WVU will likely be cautious to not depart offensive linemen in unhealthy matchups whereas additionally attempting to rapidly get the ball out of quarterback Garrett Greene’s arms.
“They do a very good job of scheming protections and attempting to get you in one-on-ones,” Brown mentioned of the Panthers. “We have to do a very good job of serving to (Greene) out by not getting our guys in again matchups and never having performs known as the place he has to carry the ball.”
Pitt’s defensive entrance will go towards the power of WVU’s offense, its gifted and skilled offensive line.
“They’ve obtained 130-some begins, these guys are skilled,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi remarked. “They’ve obtained what they wish to run the soccer and so they ran the soccer on us final 12 months. It’s going to be an incredible problem for us.”
The Mountaineers obtained the higher of the matchup final season in Pittsburgh, led by All-American middle Zach Frazier. Pitt sacked WVU quarterback JT Daniels 3 times, however the Mountaineers ran for 190 yards behind a 125-yard debut for then-freshman CJ Donaldson.
Donaldson, now a sophomore, is main the Mountaineers with 145 dashing yards by way of two video games. Quarterback Garrett Greene is true behind him with 110 yards and freshman Jahiem White had 115 after operating for 110 towards Duquesne final week.
“CJ Donaldson is an effective soccer participant,” Narduzzi mentioned. Greene at quarterback, he’s athletic, he’s a weapon. They wish to run the soccer. CJ’s 240 kilos, he’s a load, he’s arduous to get down.”
WVu is averaging 238.5 dashing yards per sport thus far, though that quantity is barely inflated because of 315 dashing yards towards Duquesne. Pitt allowed 216 dashing yards to the Bearcats final week.
“Defensively, we’ve obtained to cease the run,” Narduzzi mentioned. “We will’t let what occurred final week occur, that damage the offense. You allow them to run the ball, you allow them to drive and rating touchdowns and that hurts the offense.”
Pitt obtained down 27-7 to Cincinnati final week and ended up throwing the ball 32 occasions in comparison with simply 18 operating again carries.
That’s a giant departure from the offense Narduzzi needs — on Thursday he mentioned he’d run the ball 50 occasions if potential — and the matchup to look at when the Panthers have the ball tonight will likely be sixth-year quarterback Phil Jurkovec towards the Mountaineer secondary.
Jurkovec, who transferred to his hometown Pitt this offseason, is finishing lower than half of his passes this season and is coming off a poor efficiency towards Cincinnati the place he was simply 10 for 32 for 179 yards and three touchdowns.
Jurkovec was sacked 5 occasions final week and was hit incessantly all through the sport.
“Any NFL quarterback can inform you, if you get hit 21 occasions in a sport and also you get hit early if you shouldn’t, you’re going to battle,” Narduzzi mentioned. “He is aware of the place to go along with the ball. It’s simply getting every thing to be the appropriate manner.”
“I’m certain they have been dissatisfied they didn’t join with many (passes) towards Cincinnati,” Brown mentioned. “The scary factor for me is when he breaks comprise. He has the flexibility to run and he’s quite a bit larger than most defensive backs after which he has the arm expertise to throw the ball down the sphere.”
Quarterback scrambling has already damage the Mountaineers, who’ve given up 5 passing touchdowns and are permitting 281.5 passing yards per sport.
“We’ve obtained to get higher,” Brown mentioned. “That’s solely going to proceed to get uncovered as we transfer by way of the season beginning this week except we get that fastened.”
Brown mentioned he has been dissatisfied within the play of the secondary by way of two video games.
“There’s going to be some choices made the place we’ve obtained two video games on movie the place some folks haven’t carried out as properly and their enjoying time will lower,” he mentioned. “There’s going to be some promotions and demotions and a few decreased snaps for some folks.”
On his radio present Thursday night time, Brown introduced two new starters being inserted into WVU’s lineup. Receiver Hudson Clement, who broke out for 177 yards and three touchdowns final week, will begin on the skin reverse of senior Devin Carter. At security, senior Marcis Floyd is getting back from harm and can begin towards the Panthers.
Switch receiver EJ Horton will likely be a game-time determination to make his WVU debut, as will punter Oliver Straw, who was injured final week towards Duquesne.
Though kickoff shouldn’t be till 7:30 p.m., festivities for the highly-anticipated, sold-out contest will start round Milan Puskar Stadium a lot earlier. The Davisson Brother Band will play a free live performance at Nearly Heaven Village from 3:30-6:30 p.m. The gates to the stadium will open at 6 p.m.