The Backyard Brawl will be the toughest challenge all season for WVU’s offensive line, according to offensive line coach Matt Moore.
“They’re really good up front,” said Moore. “Everyone of my guys are going to have to play their ‘A’ game to be able to stay in that stadium with those guys.”
Pitt’s defensive line returns almost everyone from a unit that finished sixth in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (89.3) last year and second in sacks per game (3.86).
Led by defensive tackle Calijah Klancey and defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado, the 2022 unit is the second-best defensive line in the country behind only Clemson according to college football guru Phil Steele.
Moore elaborated on those points. Highlighting Pitt’s experience in the unit, use of creative blitzes and ability to put opponents in third and long situations. Moore considers Pitt to have inarguably the best defensive front that WVU will face all season with this game being made even more difficult considering the road factor.
”There’s going to be 67,000 people there, man you better get ready,” said Moore. “Because you’re going against some of the best people you’re going against all year, maybe your whole career. We got to be ready to go.”
When it comes to the challenge of the offensive line facing their toughest counterparts in week zero, as opposed to further in the season, Moore highlighted the pressure that comes with it.
“It’s like pressure right now,” said Moore. “A lot of times you go play a [FCS school] first game and you want them to do what they’re supposed to do, but now it’s like every snap is on film. It’s pressure…
”You can’t go out there and go through a period and just think, ‘Hey, I’m going to get through.’ In your mind, you gotta think ‘Hey guys. This is the opening drive against Pitt right here.’”
Still, the offensive line is arguably the most experienced and talented unit for WVU. If there was a group on WVU that could be counted on to handle a difficult test so early in the season, it’s the offensive line.
Ranked as the 37th best offensive line in the country by Phil Steele, only WVU’s defensive line has gotten a better rating (27th).
To put things in perspective, this will be an early season test for Pitt’s defensive line as well. Going by the same unit rankings, WVU has the fourth best offensive line Pitt will face this year behind Tennessee (27th), Miami (35th) and Syracuse (36th) but the latter two are towards the end of the season.
“The communication and stuff, I feel good about,” said Moore. “I feel really good about knowing what to do. Getting it done is what we gotta do…
”I feel like we’re on the same page. We just got to go out, and we gotta perform. We got to play to the best of our ability, we got to perform versus a quality opponent.”
The team returns all five starters from last year, but could replace Brandon Yates with Ja’Quay Hubbard on the opposite side of, now left tackle, Wyatt Milum. There’s a combined 107 starts between the returning five starters. Center Zach Frazier was a second-team All-American last year while Milum was a freshman All-American.
WVU’s unit has confidence that they can handle the test, and Moore likes what his unit has been doing in camp even if he said in his press conference earlier today that some mental errors, such as holding penalties, still need to be cut down on by the start of the game. In addition to the confidence, the coach and unit are excited to have this type of challenge in just the first game of the season.
”I told my guys earlier today, ‘I hope that’s why you came here’,” said Moore. “Because there’s a lot of schools you can go to where the first game is not going to be a big deal…
“Where nobody is going to write about you if you miss a sack, but I guarantee ya, you give up a sack in third and long in this game there’s a lot of people that’s gonna remember ya for a long time. And that’s pressure, and that’s what it’s about. And that’s why we’re here.”