PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – “An opportunity for redemption.”
It’s the words from West Virginia head coach Neal Brown when he joined the Fan Morning Show in Morgantown on Friday. And it’s so on two fronts, feeling like they missed an opportunity at Penn State two weeks ago and what happened last year at Acrisure Stadium in a seven-point loss to the Panthers.
Brown’s team was able to put away Duquesne last week. He didn’t say they’ve stewed about the loss in the Backyard Brawl last year, but admitted it was memorable.
“That game was a tough one for us to swallow,” Brown told Adam Crowley and Dorin Dickerson on 93.7 The Fan. “We had plenty of opportunities to win and we didn’t get it done, credit to them. It’s the first opportunity we’ve had to get back on the same field with those guys and are looking forward to it.”
It’s a hot seat right now for Brown. He comes into Saturday night’s matchup on 93.7 The Fan with a 23-26 record at WVU with only one winning season and that was back in 2020. Considering the gravity of this game and the potential to add a quality win to the resume, is this a must win?
“They are all probably must-wins,” Brown told 93.7 The Fan.
He didn’t back down from the importance of this game, saying he could feel the energy, including from his own fans, last year in Pittsburgh.
“This is not like any other game,” Brown told The Fan Morning Show. “I think we would all be naïve to say that. This is different. This is a rivalry that’s going to be played for a 106th time.”
“I don’t want to speak for Pitt, but this is our most heated rival. Ever since this series was announced, I’m sure our fan base has been ready. Our fans are hungry. They can feel it last year and we couldn’t get it done.”
Brown said it was different than any game he’s ever been in as a player or coach. He feels his team having the experience in the Backyard Brawl is a bonus. They know it’s going to be intense. They know what it means to the Mountaineer fan base. He expects those fans to be ‘hostile’ on Saturday night.
Pitt rolls in off a home loss to Cincinnati. A game where they struggled getting rhythm offensively, the quarterback (by extension the offensive coordinator and coaches) were booed at home. Panthers also had issues at times stopping the Bearcats run, that’s what WVU does best.
“I think we are going to see an entirely different Pitt team,” Brown told Adam Crowley and Dorin Dickerson on 93.7 The Fan. “I don’t think they played as well as they wanted to last week. I have a lot of respect for Coach Narduzzi and he has a veteran coaching staff. They are not going to play poorly two weeks in a row. We are going to get their best.”
Than includes Phil Jurkovec. He’s coming off a 10-32 performance with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Brown echoed what Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti said early this week that Jurkovec wasn’t has bad as it is perceived.
“The quarterback is going to come out and throw the ball better than he did last week,” Brown told The Fan Morning Show. “The thing that gets forgotten, he threw some really good balls last week. What happened was they got down and had to lean on the pass, I don’t think that’s what they want to be. Cincinnati was able to get some pressure.”
“That kid can play. He’s on NFL draft boards for a reason. He’s a big, strong guy that can throw the football. He’s tough to get down in the pocket and he can run.”
West Virginia has also had some issues in coverage and he expects the Panthers to take chances down the field.
Both teams’ seasons can change based on the result of this game. Panthers Pregame starts at 4:30p on Saturday with Bob Pompeani, Paul Zeise and Dorin Dickerson. Kickoff at 7:30p with Bill Hillgrove calling the action along with Panthers honorary captain Pat Bostick, Larry Richert and Dickerson, who was a part of the last Pitt team to win in Morgantown.