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Pitt OC Frank Cignetti Jr. Reflects on Family Ties to WVU, Backyard Brawl



Pitt OC Frank Cignetti Jr. reflects on Backyard Brawl

Frank Cignetti Jr. may coach for the Pitt Panthers now a days, but he has history with the West Virginia football program that far predates his time as a coach. In fact, the most memorable moments from his childhood center around the Mountaineers and the Backyard Brawl.

When Cignetti was about 10 years old, just a boy living in Morgantown, W.Va. while his father Frank Sr. served as the Mountaineers’ offensive coordinator, he remembers attending a few Backyard Brawls. But the one he can’t forget is the 1975 Backyard Brawl.

Pitt came to Mountaineer Field, the predecessor to Milan Puskar Stadium, and WVU knocked off No. 20 Pitt on a walk-off field goal from Bill McKenzie.

“The one that really sticks out to me, I’m a young kid in 1975, Bobby Bowden is the head coach of West Virginia University, my dad is the offensive coordinator, Pitt rolled in there — I believe Pitt was one of the top teams in the country,” Cignetti said after practice Wednesday.

“It was on ABC TV. And Bill McKenzie kicks the 39-yard field goal on the last play of the game, and we beat Pitt 17-14. That was an unbelievable memory as a young kid to rush that field and be part of this great Backyard Brawl, this rivalry.”

Frank Sr. served as an assistant coach at WVU from 1970-75, eventually taking over the head coach spot when Bowden left to take the same position at Florida State. Frank Jr. has never coached at WVU, but he remembers his younger days at Mountaineer Field well. WVU honored Cignetti Sr. during a game last season soon after he passed away.

West Virginia Football Honors Late Former Coach Frank Cignetti Sr. During Game

But while there is respect for WVU, Cignetti certainly isn’t sympathetic. It will be a battle at Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday night, the first Backyard Brawl in Morgantown since 2011, and Cignetti feels like Pat Narduzzi has done a good job preparing the team for what is sure to be a loud, rowdy crowd.

Neal Brown on Expected Atmosphere for Backyard Brawl: ‘I Hope It’s Electric’

“You go out there in practice, and you practice the crowd noise, the difference cadences, silent cadences that you need,” Cignetti said. “I think we’re all familiar with Morgantown, it’s a very passionate town. Passionate state. They love football, and it’s the best rivalry there is. It’s the Backyard Brawl.”

Pitt, of course, won the revival of the Backyard Brawl last season at Acrisure Stadium, capped off by a game-winning pick six from M.J. Devonshire late in the fourth quarter. It was the largest crowd for a sporting event in the history of Pittsburgh. It will certainly be sold out in Morgantown Saturday night, too.

The Backyard Brawl kicks off from Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia at 7:30 pm ET. And for those who will be missing out on experiencing the rivalry in person, the game will be televised nationally on ABC.

This story initially appeared on our partner site Pittsburgh Sports Now.

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