WVU players, coaches embraced atmosphere of Backyard Brawl
Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 23:11
A meeting between West Virginia and Pittsburgh on a football field is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, the two bitter rivals have now met 104 times.
But, when the Mountaineers defeated the Panthers 21-20 Friday night, it was an inaugural experience for West Virginia first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen.
"It was pretty fun," Holgorsen said. "I don't have a voice."
Holgorsen had been a part of many rivalries during his stints at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State. However, he had never been involved in a Backyard Brawl.
"That was fun – great atmosphere," Holgorsen said. "Our sidelines were unbelievable. Obviously, we were feeding off the crowd. The crowd got going in that second half, and it was loud, rowdy and fun."
While the head coach was having a great time, 22 seniors on Senior Night couldn't have scripted a better way to end their career.
West Virginia senior defensive tackle Julian Miller was enjoying senior day and his birthday. Despite a great individual performance – four sacks – Miller was pleased he could notch another win over Pittsburgh.
"It (the win) means I can go out of here, and say I beat them (Pittsburgh) three years in row," Miller said. "I'm proud of it. I know there are not too many guys that can leave here saying that."
Mountaineer junior quarterback Geno Smith thought the home team took full advantage of the opportunity presented.
"It's amazing that we get a win for these 22 seniors in this locker room who have given their all to us for four and five years," Smith said. "It's just a great opportunity to go out and get a win for the state of West Virginia."
Smith's head coach agrees with his quarterback.
"I'm very happy for the 22 seniors," Holgorsen said. "To go out and be able to win a rival game will be something they remember for a long time."
West Virginia and Pittsburgh haven't gone a year without playing since 1942. But with the recent shift in conference realignment, it is very unlikely the two teams will meet in the near future.
The 104th meeting between the two schools Friday may not have been the most important nor the most glamorous, but the drama, as always, was in full force.
"I hope we continue this," Smith said. "It's always going to be a tough game; pretty much a classic every time."