Pitt Football Helmets (Photo Credit : Vince Butts -UMT Sports)

Pitt’s Late Interception Stuns West Virginia 38-31

By Ray Porter Jr. Urban Media Today

PITTSBURGH, PA-They hadn’t played this game since 2011, so when the Pitt Panthers and West Virginia Mountaineers chose to resume this rivalry years later, it was an understatement that it was going to be not just a huge game, but a huge event, not only watched by a record 76,600 Acrisure Stadium patrons, but also a National ESPN audience, ESPN’s College Football Gameday, alumni from both schools and even Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray.

What they got was an incredible game that wasn’t decided until late in the 4th quarter when Pitt CB MJ Devonshire’s 56-yard interception return gave Pitt the lead and eventually an amazing 38-31 victory and bragging rights in their 105th edition of the “Backyard Brawl.”

“What a ballgame.” Said Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi “That was a backyard brawl for sure.”

Devonshire’s score capped a huge comeback from a 31-24 deficit that began when QB Kedon Slovis found RB Israel Abanikanda for a short pass that turned into a 24-yard TD to tie the game. The Mountaineers proved to be better than anticipated, but Pitt was able to make the key plays to secure the victory.

“First of all, you know, let’s just start with the fans in that stadium today. That place was electric. Pitt fans showed up, like, big-time.” Said Narduzzi “Was kind of real upset the night before when we heard there was going to be 75 percent West Virginia fans, which I knew ESPN had some bad facts. But they disrespected our fans and our fans showed up. They were unbelievable all day today, so I thank them first of all because they were critical in the victory.”

In his first-ever start for Pitt, Slovis finished with 308 yards (16/24) and a TD. He showed Narduzzi why he made him the starter as his accuracy resulted in clutch plays by his receivers. Although he was sacked 5 times, whenever Pitt needed Slovis to make plays, he delivered.

“You know what, I thought he was a little late with the ball at times.” Narduzzi said of his Quarterback “16-of-24, pretty good. I think one TD, five sacks, don’t like the sacks but we’ll look at that: why, what. Don’t like the sacks at all.”

RB Rodney Hammond Jr. was one of the stars of the game as he filled in for starter Abanikanda and rushed for 74 yards and a TD. He also caught 2 passes for 55 yards. RB Daniel Carter also scored a Rushing TD for the Panthers. The wide receivers were also had significant contributions as transfer Konata Mumpfield led the team with 5 receptions. Jared Wayne led with 89 yards (including a spectacular 64-yard pass) and transfer Bub Means caught 3 passes for 44 yards.

“The local guys here can tell you; Rodney is a football player. Izzy came on; he’s another guy that said, “Coach, I started slow.” But he came on, which he did.

It’s great when the kids are telling you: ‘Hey, I didn’t do it good enough; I wasn’t good.’ But Rodney came in there and he runs hard. He’s a bull and that’s no surprise to the locals.”-Said Narduzzi of his running backs.

The defense had its challenges as not only did they give up 31 points, but they also gave up 125 yards to RB CJ Donaldson. (Who also had a blocked punt that led to a TD), But they also got to Daniels and sacked him 3 times.

“I’m hot, okay. I’m hot. That doesn’t usually happen. I’m not happy,” Said Narduzzi.” I’m not happy about our run defense. We’ll get it cleaned up and see again. We have two young outside linebackers playing their first game. Probably SirVocea was good inside, but we’ll clean that up. That’s a fact. I’m in charge of that.”

For the Mountaineers, Daniels passed for 214 yards (23-40) 2 TDs and an interception. Both of those TDs went to WR Bryce Ford Wheaton (9 rec, 97 yards)

On Devonshire’s Pick-6, Narduzzi said “All I say is, wow. When he caught that thing, he was going. He’s had some great punt returns and today, he’s one of our punt returners as well. That makes you want to put him on punt return because he took that one; he was running 4.3 for sure. It was impressive.”

The Panthers will enjoy this victory and then get ready for another tough opponent in the Tennessee Volunteers next Saturday at home (3:30pm) last season, the Panthers beat the Volunteers 41-34 at Neyland Stadium.

“But in the end our guys did enough to win. They did some stuff out there that doesn’t make me happy. But the great thing is you get a win, and you make your biggest improvements between Week 1 and Week 2.” Said Narduzzi “So we’ve got a couple extra days here to prepare for a really good Tennessee football team coming into Acrisure Stadium.”

Ray Porter Jr

Please email Ray at [email protected] Follow him @RP2872_Jr on twitterwww.PittsburghPanthers.com