The talking is over, the hype history.
It’s time to get it on.
Pitt and West Virginia University, Backyard Brawl No. 103.
Need anything more be said.
The weather? Well, they say it may be raw, may be wet, may even snow a little.
Would you have it any other way?
“We have to go out and play, whether it’s snowing or raining or the sun is shining,” said West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
Of course, Heinz Field is famous for its bad footing, for real grass that never seems to take root. It can be as slick as an ice rink, as muddy as the Mississippi River.
“Field condition is only a little bump in the road,” said WVU running back Shawne Alston, who may get a lot more playing time in this one than in any other game this year, especially if the going is muddy.
As so often happens, much rides on the outcome of this game. Again, as it was last year, more is at stake for WVU. A year ago Pitt had nothing to gain, nothing to lose playing WVU, having to beat Cincinnati in the final game to win the Big East.
It lost to WVU and it lost to Cincinnati by a point.
This year Pitt has but one conference defeat, WVU and Connecticut two. If Pitt wins and UConn loses, Pitt is conference champion. If both win, they go into the final week of the season with Pitt needing to win while UConn loses because UConn has the tiebreaker with Pitt.
West Virginia? It has to win out and hope UConn loses a game, for the Huskies hold the tiebreaker over them, too.
That is why this week has been one fraught with tension in the WVU camp.
“You can feel the intensity, especially in Coach Stew’s presence,” Alston said.
One can only imagine. Bill Stewart may need to win this game to keep his job, or at least that of his offensive coordinator, for the offense has underproduced, Noel Devine has disappeared and the best defense maybe in America could be robbed of an important national stage if it doesn’t make a BCS bowl game.
Stewart has hinted that this week he may go more to the bigger Alston than he has, in part because Devine has been nursing an ankle injury, the severity of which is being kept under lock and key. It has been obvious that Devine, thought to be a Heisman candidate entering the season but now limping toward 1,000 yards at the year’s end, has not been himself.
Tweaking the injury in the Louisville game did not help.
That means Alston may be a feature in the attack against Pitt’s 4-3 defense.
“I feel like I can do it, but at the same time different situations in the game call for different things,” said Alston, when asked if he would have liked to have played more this season. “Sometimes you have to get into a more fast-paced offense, when the coaches want to increase the tempo.
“The coaches know what’s going on, and they put personnel in for the way they want to address a situation.”
In the end, this game is going to be as it has been for the last three years when neither team could muster 20 points.
When asked what he thought was the key to the game, WVU receiver Jock Sanders, a veteran of those last three games, answered:
“I don’t say it’s the quarterbacks or the running backs. It’s the defensive lines. Look at their defensive line. Look at our defensive line. They both have great players on them. They had their best guy go down with injury and the guy who took his place has 10 sacks.
“If you look at it, it’s going to be a defensive game.”
It is a game for Chris Neild, the hearty WVU nose guard, and for Jabaal Sheard, Pitt’s do-everything defensive end.
It is a game that represents the two areas, the mines of West Virginia and the mills of Western Pennsylvania, a game where the two teams wear special uniforms, the Mountaineers decked out in Nike gear that honors the coal miners tragically trapped in the Upper Big Branch Mine earlier this year.
“There’s a purpose to wearing those uniforms. A couple of weeks ago (when WVU had lost two in a row before bouncing back against Cincinnati and Louisville) everyone was saying there wasn’t a purpose to it. Everyone had their heads down, but now there’s a purpose,” Sanders said. “I salute those guys out there who went through so much and those who are doing it now.”
Let’s let that be the final word. Let the Brawl begin.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.
The talking is over, the hype history.
- WVU Sports
Huggins signs junior college guard
Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing
The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.
FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors
Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
• A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.
Bussie looks forward to WNBA
On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.
WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete
The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.
Gyorko, Padres agree to extension
Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved
From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.
WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI
There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.
FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage
There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball
The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.
- More WVU Sports Headlines
- Huggins signs junior college guard