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Old rivalries and new challenges await WVU in the coming years 

In an all-important fourth season for WVU head coach Neal Brown, his 2022 Mountaineers will have two challenges before entering the gauntlet that is the Big 12 schedule. 

WVU will travel to Heinz Field to renew the Backyard Brawl rivalry against Pitt on Sept. 1, along with a trip to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech for the Black Diamond Trophy on Sept. 22.  

With these two non-conference games coming in 2022, let’s take a look at some of the other series’ that will take place going forward for WVU. 

Pitt 

The newly renewed WVU-Pitt series has been extended to a home-and-home series that will take place in 2023, 2024, 2025, 2029, 2030, 2031, and 2032. 

This is an obvious win for college football, as the Backyard Brawl is a game that both sides want to play every year. It’s a series that dates back to 1895, and there have been many memorable moments. 

The last WVU-Pitt matchup in football came at the end of the 2011 season. WVU needed a win at home against Pitt to keep their BCS bowl hopes alive, but Pitt jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. 

WVU mounted a comeback after an impressive 63-yard touchdown from Stedman Bailey. The Mountaineers led 21-20 late in the fourth quarter and needed one more defensive stand. The Mountaineers got that, as Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri was sacked for the ninth and tenth time on the night, giving WVU the one-point win. 

There’s no doubt that the game between WVU and Pitt at Heinz Field will have plenty of buzz around it. Expect it to be one of the better week one games of the college football season. 

Virginia Tech 

The Mountaineers got reacquainted with the Hokies last season when the rivalry was renewed for the first time since the 2005 season. In a sellout, gold-rush crowd, WVU took down Virginia Tech 27-21. 

After WVU let a 20-point lead dwindle down to six points, it seemed as if the Hokies might escape Morgantown with a win when they intercepted WVU quarterback Jarret Doege. With under two minutes to play, Virginia Tech got the ball to the WVU four-yard line. 

Miraculously, the West Virginia defense stood tall, stopping the Hokies on four straight plays to secure the win. 

The Mountaineers and Hokies will meet up again during the 2022 season, this time in Blacksburg.  

A memorable game at Lane Stadium for WVU came in 2002. Virginia Tech was ranked No. 12 in the nation, while WVU was trying to turn things around after a tough 2001 season. 

This was another game where the WVU defense won the night, this time with a series of plays to secure the win.  

With just under four minutes to play, Virginia Tech had the ball at the WVU one-yard line on fourth down. WVU linebacker Grant Wiley jumped over the line of scrimmage and tripped up Virginia Tech star running back Lee Suggs before he could break the plane. 

The Hokies got the ball back late in the fourth quarter and had a chance to either tie the game or take a late lead. With the ball inside the WVU 15-yard line, Virginia Tech elected to take another shot at the end zone. 

With 12 seconds left, WVU’s Bryan King intercepted a pass in the end zone to secure the road upset win. 

Penn State 

In 2023 and 2024, WVU will renew their rivalry with Penn State with a home-and home series starting at Penn State. The two teams have not played since 1992. 

It’s a one-sided rivalry, as Penn State has a 42-6-1 all-time record against the Mountaineers, but there are still a couple of iconic moments for WVU in this series. 

From 1947 until 1984, the Mountaineers could not beat the Nittany Lions. In 1984, WVU finally took down Penn State by the score of 17-14, with the scoreboard reading, “Finally,” after the game concluded. 

Another memorable moment was in 1988. The 1988 Mountaineers went undefeated and made the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. Against Penn State in 1988, Major Harris and WVU thumped the Nittany Lions 51-30. 

WVU star quarterback Major Harris had one of the best plays in WVU football history that day, running for a touchdown while shedding tackles, illuding defenders, and all-around toying with the Nittany Lion defense. 

With the first matchup of the renewed series being at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, it’s possible that Penn State could do its iconic “white out” game. The Nittany Lions did their “white out” against Auburn, a non-conference opponent in 2021, so don’t rule that out. 

Alabama 

In 2026 and 2027, WVU will have a home-and-home series with the juggernaut of Alabama. Alabama is without a doubt the best college football dynasty over the past 20 years, winning six titles since Nick Saban took over in 2007. Nick Saban is a West Virginia native, so that will be a big storyline if he doesn’t retire before then.  

The first game of the series will be at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. That will be a destination trip for many WVU fans, as the stadium holds over 100,00 fans. 

WVU played Alabama in 2014 in a neutral-site game in Atlanta, Georgia. Alabama was ranked No. 2 in the nation, while WVU was coming off a losing season. 

Surprisingly, WVU played a good game against the Crimson Tide. WVU did multiple things well against Alabama, including a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown from Mario Alford and a tough touchdown catch by Kevin White in the back corner of the end zone. 

In the end, WVU couldn’t pull out the upset, as Alabama won by 10 points.  

The WVU football program is definitely in store for years of entertaining matchups outside the Big 12. There will be plenty of challenges, but renewing old rivalries and starting up new ones will be strong resume builders for talented WVU teams to come. 

Photo by Ethan Bock

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