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Takeaways: WVU Football Showed Heart in Brawl Win, Can’t be Satisfied



WVU Football DB Beanie Bishop against Pitt

Beating Pitt in the 2023 Backyard Brawl is the biggest win for Neal Brown since taking over as West Virginia’s head coach in 2019. That’s almost impossible to argue when you factor in the pressure on him and the WVU football program this season and how much the fan base wanted revenge on their hated rival for last season’s loss in Pittsburgh.

Winning on Saturday night didn’t come up without having to overcome the adversity of a key injury and mistakes. Some may even argue that Pitt, most notably quarterback Phil Jurkovec handed the Mountaineers the game, but a win is a win and it was a very big one for WVU.

But now that the 2023 Backyard Brawl is in the books, what are the takeaways from West Virginia’s 17-6 victory over Pitt in a chippy rivalry game?

The WVU Secondary Stepped Up

It had to happen, but the WVU secondary finally stepped up. All the talk about the secondary being deeper this season seemed to be fools gold through the first two games. Poor coverage and failing to convert chances at turnovers, especially against Penn State, put pressure on the group to show what it’s truly made of in the team’s biggest game of the season. They did that and then some.

Both Aubrey Burks and Beanie Bishop caught interception. They are the two veteran leaders and the players who need to lead by example. While Pitt fans will tell you Jurkovec’s passes could’ve been picked off by anybody, something Bishop might even agree with, WVU fans have seen their defense fail to take advantage of mistakes and miss out on takeaways far too often to take anything for granted. Burks, Bishop and company need to get credit for playing a huge role in the win. They also need to keep it up and bring that level of play to the rest of the season.

WVU DB Beanie Bishop Blasts Pitt QB Phil Jurkovec, Calls Him Bad at His Job

Nicco Marchiol Can’t be More Than Game Manager Right Now

When Garrett Greene went down, all signs pointed to the luck not being on West Virginia’s side yet again. Greene never returned to action, but Nicco Marchiol was able to do his part and led the way for the Mountaineers.

But Marchiol himself even mentioned that he was only able to manage the game in relief of an injured Greene. Brown said he had to cut the playbook in half with Mrachiol under center. That’s not to say Marchiol can’t develop into a player who can do more, but his inexperience did show at times.

Fortunately for Marchiol, his defense bailed him out after he fumbled the ball away. He can’t rely on that happening again. Laying the ball on the ground like that due to a miscommunication could’ve been costly if Pitt was able to take advantage. Marchiol knows that, but so does Brown. It will be interesting to see if and when the playbook opens up for Marchiol. It will also be interesting to see how he looks after a full week of stater reps at practice.

It’s possible Greene is okay enough to return, and the assumption is Greene would still be the guy if healthy. But with that said, Greene was seen in a boot on the sidelines and Brown mentioned he didn’t think his stater was physically capable of going back in.

If it’s more of Marchiol next week and beyond, he will have to progress and be smarter for the Mountaineers to get where they want to be as a team this season. Marchiol won’t be able to rely on his defense taking over a game like they did against Pitt.

Mountaineer Nation is Alive

It’s no secret the WVU football program has been enduring its darkest period since before Don Nehlen took over in recent years. It’s also no secret that much of Mountaineer Nation is fed up and wants a new head coach. Those facts have caused attendance to drop and some fans to go as far as to literally root against their team, feeling as if losing is actually best for the future.

None of that seemed to matter on Saturday night. In WVU’s first true Saturday night game with a kickoff beyond in awhile, the crowd brought a level of intensity that Brown admitted aided West Virginia in getting the win. A crowd can swing a sloppy game, and that’s what happened at Milan Puskar Stadium.

WVU HC Neal Brown on Atmosphere at Backyard Brawl: ‘Players Fed Off That’

The fans were starving to beat their arch rival and put their desire for revenge from 2022 above anything else. The fans came together to will their team to victory. The fans then were rewarded by being able to sing Country Roads together to celebrate after the game.

Next up for West Virginia is Texas Tech. And as big of a win as beating Pitt was, it won’t mean nearly as much if WVU suffers another losing season. The work for Brown and his team is far from done.


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. WVU vs Everyone

    September 18, 2023 at 10:33 am

    I think it is hilarious how the media lobbies and brags about how great a team is and says WVU must play a perfect game or the game of their lives if they expect to win the game. Then WVU wins and that same team that everyone boasted about all of a sudden must be terrible, horrific or excuses are made to explain how that team loss to WVU. Then the next game it all starts all over again. The greatest team in the history of college football will be playing against the worst team ever in the Big 12 WVU.
    How come you don’t see any criticism in the media about the great Alabama team??? They are not playing very well this year and they are a college football dynasty!!! Hmmm makes you wonder??

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