When West Virginia wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton let a pass from J.T. Daniels bounce off his hands, it wasn’t a winning play. When M.J. Devonshire caught the deflected ball and ran it back to the end zone, that was a winning play.
WVU head coach Neal Brown was interviewed by WV Sports Now’s Mike Asti Thursday, and when the topic of the Backyard Brawl arose, Brown lamented his squad’s missed opportunities in a 38-31 loss last season.
“It was a game where we played well enough to win, and then we didn’t make winning plays at winning times,” Brown said.
In front of a record-breaking crowd (the largest sporting event in the city of Pittsburgh), Pitt kicked off its season with a win in the first Brawl since 2011. And while it was an up-and-down season the rest of the way, it started the season off on a very positive note. The same can’t be said for West Virginia.
“They had a really good football last year,” Brown said. “Does the path of our season change if we win the game? Probably so, probably so, but we didn’t win the game. It was winnable. We didn’t make the plays. They made some plays to win it.”
The 2023 Backyard Brawl won’t be the season opener, instead coming as a Week 3 matchup for both squads, but Brown sees the matchup in Morgantown, West Virginia as a key point in the season.
“They took advantage of some of our mistakes, and now we’ve got a chance at our home stadium, and this place is gonna be rocking and rolling,” Brown said. “It’s gonna be a night game, I know our fans are gonna be supercharged, and it’s important.
“We need to win the game. We need to win the game. It’s important where it falls in our schedule, it’s the game before we play our Big 12 opener … It’s important and it matters and it’s a game from a rivalry perspective, we don’t try to undersell it.”
The Brawl this year will be played at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown on Sept. 16, with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff scheduled, and it will come after the season opener against Penn State in State College and a home matchup against FCS Duquesne. And it certainly will be different than playing in Pittsburgh.
“That was a great atmosphere,” Brown said. “It was a great atmosphere. They’re gonna argue that they had all the people there, our people are gonna argue it was half, I don’t know. I don’t really know, but I know it was a damn good football atmosphere.
Pat Narduzzi weighed in on the difference between playing in Pittsburgh and West Virginia earlier this month during a surprise appearance on 93.7 the Fan’s morning show with former Pitt star Dorin Dickerson and WVU alum Adam Crowley.
“I’m really excited about that 7:30 night game, couldn’t be more excited,” Narduzzi said. “I mean, hey, 7:30 night game in Pittsburgh a year ago, and we’ll take another 7:30. It’ll be a great atmosphere down there, wear your hard hats and be ready to go. It’ll be a little different style than the clash in Pittsburgh.
“I don’t think we’ll travel as well down to Morgantown because of the smaller stadium size, and the way they treat fans down there, I think there’s a lot of Pitt fans — obviously they’ve got the money to do it, but I wonder what that will be like. From all the stories I’ve heard, there’s a lot of older Pitt fans that are like, I’m not going down to that place. I’d rather go to the zoo.”
Watch the full conversation below.
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