MJ Devonshire gave Pitt his first win over West Virginia since 2008.
Devon intercepted West Virginia’s JT Daniels and ran it back for 56 yards for a touchdown with 2:58 left to give No. 17 Pete a 38-31 win over the Mountaineers. Thursday night’s game was the first in a long-running rivalry known as the “backyard brawl” since 2011.
West Virginia led 31-24 with 10 minutes left, but Pete tied the game at 3:41 after Kedon Slovis hit Israel Abanikanda Abanikanda) after a 24-yard catch and a run out of a TD. Two games later, Devon was in the end zone and the biggest crowd in Pitt football history went wild.
The Climbers have another chance to tie the game, and an almost perfect chance to do so. Reece Smith nearly made an incredible swooping catch near the goal line in the fourth quarter with 22 seconds left, but it slid across the turf as he tried to bring it into his body.
Pete’s last run was the team’s third straight 14-point second half. The Panthers did just that in the third quarter, leading 24-17, before losing to the Climbers early in the fourth.
West Virginia led, thanks to a run game that made Pitt’s defensive line look tired. The Climbers averaged over 6 yards per carry, while CJ Donaldson rushed for 125 yards with just 7 carries. But West Virginia coach Neil Brown avoided a chance to play in Game 4 with just over a yard with six minutes left in Pitt’s territory.
Instead, Brown opted for a delayed game free throw and kicked Pete back. That punt allowed Pete to tie the game from 92 yards.
All but four of those yards came by passing. After offensive coordinator Mark Whipple traveled to Nebraska, Biletnikoff winning wide receiver Jordan Addison moved to USC and Heisman finalist QB Kenny Pickett was drafted in the first round, the renewed focus on running appears to be the result of coach Pat Narduzzi in the offseason. goal of the Steelers.
While Pete remained committed to the running game on Thursday night, it was a futile commitment. The Panthers pass much better and should throw more. Kedon Slovis completed just 24 passing attempts, while the Panthers had 29 rushing attempts. Slovis was 16 of 24 for 305 yards passing and could have been more. In the third quarter, a potentially long TD pass went to the open Bub Means.
The win means Pitt’s Week 2 game at home against Tennessee will be one of the biggest games of the weekend. Walls comfortably defeated Ball State at home on Thursday night, and they were widely expected to finish second in the SEC East. Meanwhile, West Virginia will lament a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win in a game to open a pivotal fourth season for the Browns. The Climbers will face Towson in Week 2 as they look to win more than six games in a season for the first time in Brown’s tenure.