A Week 1 trip to the North Shore in Pittsburgh brought back one of the most intense rivalries in college football with the Backyard Brawl between WVU and Pitt.
The in-game environment was special as two fanbases came together as a Pittsburgh sports record was broken with 70,622 at Acrisure Stadium.
The crowd was great and it was loud, but there was something missing — something you feel when at a big game at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Played at an NFL stadium and with Pitt being an urban campus in a metropolitan area, when the Backyard Brawl is played at Pitt, it doesn’t feel like a college football environment.
Tailgating is on under underpasses to several highways and interstates. Many people hop around the various bars and restaurants in the area, mainly themed around the city’s pro sports teams that play there in the Steelers and Pirates.
Pitt students need to be bussed from Oakland, through downtown and over the Allegheny River to even get to the game.
It’s a college game played in a pro sports environment.
On the other hand, Thursday’s game in Blacksburg, Va., between the Mountaineers and Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium was everything college football is about.
Blacksburg is your typical college town, similar to Morgantown, with fans tailgating in open field around the stadium and between dorms and dining halls.
Before the game, the Hokies’ well-known entrance featuring Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blasted through the speakers as about 30,000 of the over 68,000 in attendance jumping up and down while waving their shakers.
Both school’s marching bands were loud and proud, and the game was played with an intensity only college football can create.
The Mountaineers came out on top with a 33-10 win, keeping the Black Diamond Trophy in Morgantown indefinitely with no future games scheduled between the two schools.
That is what college football is all about.
In short, it was the perfect game to cover as my last at The Dominion Post.
This week was my last at the newspaper that gave a fresh out-of-college 22-year-old his first opportunity in 2013.
Coming in, sports was the only thing I wanted to do, but it took two years of doing obituaries and working the 4-midnight copy desk shift before that became a reality.
Seven years later, after covering high school sports, followed by getting the WVU football beat, to becoming sports editor in 2019, it was time to see what else was out there professionally and personally.
With a 15-month-old growing as fast as everyone warned she would, family is first, and I’m excited to see what the next chapter holds.
To the players, coaches and administrators who have helped me along the way, thank you. This position would quite literally not be possible without you.
To my colleague Justin Jackson, thank you. One of, if not the best sports reporter in the state — genuinely, too, I know longer have to sit right five feet from him — your advice and guidance helped me every step of the way.
To Dave Raese and Pam Queen, thank you. I have been given opportunity after opportunity, eventually reaching my goal of covering WVU football.
To all of my colleagues, current and past, at The Dominion Post, thank you. This was an amazing place to be a part of for nearly a decade.
Lastly, to our loyal readers, thank you. It’s been a privilege to tell the stories of those of all ages in this community.
This is not the last time my byline will appear in The Dominion Post as I hope to continue writing for as long as they’ll allow me in a different role.
But this chapter of my life is coming to an end as another is beginning, so again, thank you.