Pick 6 Bails Out SLOvis Start
Backyard Brawl 2022 was played in front of a record 70,622 fans at Acrisure Stadium, and it was one for the ages. This was the first backyard brawl in 11 years and the fans on both sides of the brawl were as ready as ever.
Kedon Slovis, a USC transfer was making his Pitt debut at quarterback taking over for Kenny Pickett who went in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Pitt comes into the brawl as 7.5-point favorites over the Mountaineers as they start their defense as ACC Champions.
Pitt won the opening coin toss and decided to defer to West Virginia. Pitt’s defense which is said to be their strong suit led by the likes of Calijah Kancey and SirVocea Dennis. West Virginia and Pitt would both not move the ball on their opening possessions. Pitt’s Israel Abanikanda started at running back and struggled to get much going as he only had 9 yards on 4 carries in the first half. Rodney Hammond, Jr. a sophomore running back was a spark for the Panthers as he had 47 yards on 7 carries and scored on a 4-yard run. Kedon Slovis had some nice throws, but what stood out the most is his indecisive moments where he seemed unsure if he should run or throw, taking a sack instead. Pitt and West Virginia played to a 10-10 tie at the half. For West Virginia wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton and running back C.J. Donaldson both looked like they were going to be problems for the Panthers defense. Pitt’s defense had trouble stopping the zone running game which could be problems going forward.
The second half would open as both offenses started to find a rhythm. The Mountaineers would start using running backs CJ Donaldson and Tony Mathis more consistently. West Virginia’s offensive line took control of the second half. The Mountaineers would get a spark on special teams early in the half as CJ Donaldson would block a Sam Vander Haar punt and take over inside the Panthers 10. West Virginia would cash in instantly with a 5-yard run by CJ Donaldson to go up 17-10. After another punt, Pitt would tie the game up with a 4 play 65-yard drive which used a big catch and run by Ronnie Hammond and finished with a 1-yard run by Daniel Carter. Pitt would hold WVU and come right back with a quick strike, 3 play drive that was finished with a Rodney Hammond 11-yard run. West Virginia though would score the next two touchdowns and go up 31-24. J.T. Daniels to Bryce Ford-Wheaton and a JT Daniels sneak had the Panthers back on their heels. With 3:41 to go in the game Abanikanda would take a swing pass from Slovis and score from 24 yards. This drive was after West Virginia coach Neal Brown decided to punt on 4th and about a foot at their own 47. West Virginia would take over at their own 25 and after 2 plays J.T. Daniels would throw a pass that went through the hands of Ford-Wheaton and was picked off by Aliquippa native M.J. Devonshire and was returned 56 yards to put the Panthers up 38-31. West Virginia would move the ball down to the Panthers 28 and in a game with numerous reviews, the Panthers would have to wait for a review to realize they have won the backyard brawl. Pitt will host Tennessee next Saturday (9-10-22). Tennessee beat Ball St. in week one 59-10.
Rodney Hammond, Jr. appeared to me to be the #1 back. Last year as a freshman he was solid, and he only appears to be getting better. Bub Means struggled with a fumble and a couple of drops. Pat Narduzzi and the players stated they were lucky for this win and have a lot to work on to get ready for the Volunteers next week.