MORGANTOWN — Fights aren’t meant to be pretty, and that’s what West Virginia coach Neal Brown saw in the “Backyard Brawl” with Pittsburgh.
CJ Donaldson rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown before getting hurt and the Mountaineers scored 10 points off two Pittsburgh interceptions to beat the Panthers 17-6 Saturday night.
Nicco Marchiol came on in place of the injured Garrett Greene to throw a short TD pass for the Mountaineers (2-1).
Both teams struggled to get any passing game going in the 106th version of the Brawl, which resumed a year ago following an 11-year hiatus.
Pittsburgh (1-2) was held to its fewest points in the series since a 34-0 loss in 1996. The Panthers were limited to 73 yards of offense in the second half. Each team had exactly 211 yards overall. But West Virginia got help from Pittsburgh mistakes.
“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.”
Pitt quarterback Phil 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.
“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.”
Greene limped off the field on West Virginia’s second series and did not return. Marchiol fumbled the ball away in the second quarter, but Aubrey Burks intercepted Jurkovec two plays later, returning it 26 yards to the Panthers’ 7. That set up Marchiol’s short scoring toss to tight end Kole Taylor. Marchiol finished 6 of 9 for 60 yards.
With Greene hurt, Donaldson took matters into his own hands. The sophomore ran for 48 yards on West Virginia’s first series of the third quarter, which was aided by a defensive holding call that kept the drive moving. Donaldson punched it into the end zone from 1-yard out for a 14-6 lead.
“He’s a big back,” Narduzzi said. “He’s physical.”
But Donaldson was injured on a short gain early in the fourth quarter. He walked off the field under his own power and did not return.
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. 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.
Narduzzi said he plans to stick with Jurkovec as his starter.
“Got a lot of faith in Phil,” Narduzzi said. “I thought we protected him better today than we did a week ago.”
Pittsburgh: The Panthers have lost two straight and must figure out what’s wrong with its offense entering conference play that includes four ranked opponents.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers need Donaldson and Greene back to have any chance of being competitive in Big 12 play. Their status over the next week will be closely watched. It marks the first time since early in the 2021 season that West Virginia has a winning record.
Brown said he didn’t have an update on Greene’s injury but expected Donaldson “to be fine.”
Donaldson broke an ankle against TCU last year and missed the last four games of the season.
“Where he’s recovered from the TCU injury, it scared him more than anything,” Brown said.
Greene was placed in a walking boot and couldn’t put much weight on his foot.
“He would have liked to have gone back (in). I don’t think he could have performed, and so we just made a decision” to keep him out of the game, Brown said.
The coach said he’ll know more about Greene’s injury by Monday.
Pittsburgh hosts No. 20 North Carolina next Saturday. West Virginia plays its third straight home game against Texas Tech next Saturday.
By The Associated Press