Whenever I think of the Backyard Brawl, my mind is immediately flooded with memories and emotions.
In fact, it was the weekend of the Pitt game when I spoke to my dear mother for the last time. She lapsed into a coma and passed away on Sunday, following the game.
I even wrote a column about that game, some of the best writing that nobody ever read.
Therefore, I will never think of this football game without being reminded of Mom.
I hate Pitt!
The reasons are many.
Following the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC, the Panthers have consistently failed to carry their weight for the Big East Conference.
That responsibility has been repeatedly shouldered by West Virginia.
In Pitt’s only BCS appearance, they failed miserably!
Despite their national championships, despite their tradition, Pitt has done nothing to shut the mouths of the Big East critics.
And in last year’s bowl game, Pitt couldn’t even score a lousy touchdown.
I can’t stand Pitt.
Additionally, their most memorable moment in the Big East probably did the most damage to the conference’s fortunes.
West Virginia’s Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Owen Schmitt were headed for New Orleans and the BCS Championship Game.
All that stood between them and a chance at that crystal football trophy was a 28-point underdog, Pitt squad.
I need not remind you of what happened in that game.
In the aftermath of that contest, Rich Rodriguez would pull his deceitful little disappearing act, before the ink was even dry on his monumental contract increase.
And you don’t even what to get me started about my theories regarding what happened in that football game.
I despise Pitt.
In all my years of attending football games, I am used to them inspecting whatever gear I carry into the stadium. It didn’t bother me. As a non-drinker, the worst thing I had ever smuggled into a stadium was a can of Coke, something I was severely chastised for by a Mountaineer fan, pouring Jack Daniels into his stadium vendor cola.
However, I had never been literally frisked going into a football game. That record came to an end before, you guessed it, the Pitt game.
I abhor Pitt.
With Major Harris still quarterbacking the Mountaineers in 1989, West Virginia looked like they might be heading for their second-straight undefeated season. The Mountaineers jumped out to an impressive early lead.
But despite that lead, Pitt would eventually kick a last-second field goal, and the game would end in a 31-31 tie.
Before this year’s game with Connecticut, following the death of Jasper Howard, I had never seen Mountaineer Field that quiet.
And in my interviews with Major, you could see how that tie with Pitt continually loomed large throughout the season. The team could never get past it. Moreover, the outcome of that game absolutely destroyed any chance the Mountaineers would have to make another run at a national championship.
Following that ill-fated season, Major would make an ill-advised decision to bypass his senior year and enter the NFL draft.
I detest Pitt.
In my only trip to Pitt to watch a football game, before they started playing at Heinz Field, the bleachers were so cramped that you had knees in your back the whole game. Pitt officials briefly took away our mascot’s rifle. The Mountaineer finally got his gun back, but that was the only bright spot in a dismal defeat.
The following year, perhaps it was in Pitt’s media guide, they called the game, “A Coalminer’s Slaughter.”
I loathe Pitt.
If the tie in 1989 wasn’t a bad enough memory, then West Virginia’s first triple overtime game was, once again, the Backyard Brawl. Pitt would come out on top.
There are clearly many reasons to hate the Pitt Panthers. Along with my personal memories, I also carry the bitter hatred of previous Backyard Brawl games, passed from father to son.
By the way, did I happen to mention that I hate Pitt?
But I do love this game!