Morgantown, W.Va. —Anytime West Virginia plays Pittsburgh it always exciting and drama is usually attached to the “Backyard Brawl”
Mountaineer running back CJ Donaldson ran for 102 yards and a touchdown and West Virginia scored 10 points off two Pittsburgh picks to beat the Panthers 17-6 Saturday night in Morgantown in front of announced crowd of 61,106.
The WVU pass defense, which came into tonight’s contest allowed 281 yards per game through the air, limit Phil Jurkovec to just 8 of 20 for 81 yards with constant pressure in his face all game long.
“They call this game a brawl for a reason,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said afterwards. “This loss stuck with us for 54 weeks. We were in this same situation with a lead in the fourth quarter last year and didn’t get it done. This year we did.”
Both teams struggled to get their passing game going in the 106th version of the Brawl, which resumed a year ago following an 11-year hiatus.
The Panthers (1-2) was held to its fewest points in the series since a 34-0 loss in 1996. Pitt was held to 73 yards of offense in the second half. Each team had 211 yards overall. But West Virginia forced the Panthers to turn the ball over.
“They call it the ‘Brawl’ for a reason. That wasn’t a thing of beauty,” Brown said. “Regardless of what it was, it was a win for West Virginia.
“It was ugly, and we can play ugly ball.”
With Greene hurt, Donaldson was the workhorse. The sophomore ran for 48 yards on West Virginia’s first series of the third quarter, which was helped by a defensive holding call that kept the drive going. Donaldson took it into the end zone from 1-yard out for a 14-6 lead.
The Panthers got the ball back at its 5-yard line with 3:53 left in the game, but the Mountaineer defense stood tall. A pair of incomplete passes set up a fourth and 20, and instead of dropping back into coverage, WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley dialed up a blitz and Tyrin Bradley sacked Jurkovec for a 9-yard loss.
Nico Marchiol came on in place of the injured Garret Greene to throw a short TD pass for the Mountaineers (2-1).
Pittsburgh’s Rasheem Biles blocked Oliver Straw’s punt and the Panthers took over at the West Virginia 48 trailing 17-6 with 8:19 left in the game. But Jurkovec was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the 27-yard line. He was sacked on fourth down at his 13 on Pittsburgh’s next series, and later threw his third interception.
Jurkovec went 8 of 20 for 81 yards.
Jurkovec had trouble finding his receivers for the second straight game. The Panthers settled for two short first-half field goals after reaching the West Virginia 20-yard line.
“The difference in the game is turnovers,” Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi said. “They made some plays on the ball. We didn’t. It’s hard to win a football game when you kick two field goals and don’t score touchdowns.”
Quarterback Garrett Greene limped off the field on West Virginia’s second series and did not return. Marchiol fumbled the ball away in the second quarter, Aubrey Burks intercepted Jurkovec two plays later, returning it 26 yards to the Panthers’ 7-yard line. That set up Marchiol’s short scoring pass to tight end Kole Taylor. Marchiol finished 6 of 9 for 60 yards.
Pittsburgh hosts No. 20 North Carolina next Saturday.
West Virginia plays its third straight home game against Texas Tech next Saturday.