Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Mountaineers looking to avoid letdown following emotional Backyard Brawl victory

MORGANTOWN — Following an emotional victory over their biggest rival last week, the West Virginia Mountaineers are looking to avoid a letdown when a team that’s had their number for four seasons comes to town on Saturday.

After defeating Pitt 17-6 last Saturday, WVU (2-1) will conclude its three-game home stand by welcoming Texas Tech (1-2) to Milan Puskar Stadium this week (3:30 p.m./ESPN+).

“They’ve had our number,” head coach Neal Brown said Monday. “That’ll probably be the story this week; we can’t hide from it, they’ve beaten us four years in a row.” 

The Red Raiders have a four-game winning streak over the Mountaineers, spanning Brown’s entire tenure in Morgantown. Last year’s 48-10 loss in Lubbock, Texas was WVU’s largest margin of defeat since 2020.

“Last year was probably as bad of a performance as I’ve ever been a part of,” Brown said. “If you watch that film, it wouldn’t take you very long to get ready for this one because that was bad ball last year.”

The natural worry is that the win over a big rival could carry over into the team’s preparation the following week and prevent them from fully focusing on the Red Raiders. According to some WVU players, however, that is not happening.

“The goal was never just to beat Pitt,” defensive lineman Tomiwa Durojaiye said. “Obviously it’s a big game and it was for the state, but for the Texas Tech game, they’ve had our number for four years so this game is now a lot personal for the team. I feel like this is something where we need to go out and show the Big 12 what we’re about.”

The Mountaineers watched the tape from the Pitt game Sunday and Monday morning but then had moved on by the time they practiced Monday afternoon.

“You have to be able to switch gears and put that in the past,” right tackle Doug Nester said. “That game’s over with, done, we celebrated it and we need to be able to move forward and focus on Texas Tech now.”

It’s been easy for this group of players to move on, according to Brown, because the Backyard Brawl rivalry is still so new to many of them.

“The Backyard Brawl is a huge deal for our fan base and our state,” Brown said. “I try to educate (our players) on the historical reference of the Backyard Brawl and what it means.” 

The oldest current Mountaineer players would have been around 10 years old when the annual series with Pitt ended in 2011.

“I wouldn’t say they understand it like the 20-year season ticket holder or someone who grew up in the state of West Virginia,” Brown continued. “So they’re going to be able to put it to bed pretty quick.”

This Saturday’s game is the Big 12 conference opener for both teams. After being picked last in the conference preseason poll, the Mountaineers are motivated to start conference play with a win.

“Those guys were ready to move on (Sunday),” offensive coordinator Chad Scott said. “They were all ready to put that to bed and move on to Texas Tech. They’re a very mature group, they understand the issues and the challenges we’ve had in the past with those guys and the opportunity we’ve got this week. No problem putting that away, those guys are ready to move on.”

The Mountaineers have a losing record, 2-3, against Texas Tech at home. They last beat the Red Raiders in Morgantown in 2017.

“They’ve won the last two times they’ve come here and our guys know that,” Brown said. “We were picked last in the conference and this is our first opportunity to prove the so-called experts wrong.”

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