Pitt recovers in the second half to secure a 38-31 win against West Virginia

Pitt survived a soft-run defense, a slowly developing ground game of his own, and six lead changes, but in the 105th Backyard Brawl at Acrisure Stadium on Thursday night, Pitt beat West Virginia. We beat them 38-31.

A crowd of 70,622 — an all-time record for a Pittsburgh sporting event of any kind — watched Pitt’s defense collapse before providing the deciding points in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers trailed 31-24 for about seven minutes into the final quarter before leveling the game with quarterback Kedon Slovis hitting running back Izzy Avanikanda for a 24-yard touchdown with 3:41 remaining.

Arikippa alumni MJ Devonshire then secured a pass, deflected it from the hands of WVU wide receiver Bryce Ford Wheaton, and passed it 56 yards for the tiebreaker touchdown with 2:58 remaining. This was his second late clutch interception of Pitt’s career for Devonshire. He picked a pass in overtime to help Pitt beat North Carolina last season.

Pitt struggled to generate a run game until Rodney Hammond Jr. was replaced by starter Avanicanda. Avanikanda had 15 yards on eight carries before re-entering to trigger the rally. Hammond scored his two goals for a total of 74 yards on 16 tries.

Slovis threw for 308 yards and struck out on 16 of 24 attempts. yard.

With the score tied at 24-24 in the fourth quarter, the Panthers allowed runs of 39 yards by Donaldson and 23 yards by Mattis before quarterback J.T. rice field.

Daniels completed 24 of 39 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns.

After the score was tied 10–10 at half-time, Pitt found themselves trailing, unable to gain control early in the second half.

After a three-and-out that included a Slovis sack, Donaldson blocked freshman Sam Vander Haar’s punt, which Hershey McLaughlin returned 14 yards back to the 5-yard line. Donaldson ended the drive on the next play, giving WVU a 17–10 lead less than two minutes into the second half.

After Slovis connected with Jared Wayne on a 64-yard pass-and-run, Pitt countered with a 1-yard dive into fullback Daniel Carter’s end zone.

Hammond next made a big gain in the air, catching a short flip from Slovis and sprinting from 49 to 11 yards. On the next play, Hammond dragged West Virginia and Pitt players into the end zone to take a 24–17 pit lead at three. :42 remain in Q3.

However, nothing was easy for Pitt throughout the game, and the Mountaineers tied the score on Daniels’ 16-yard touchdown pass to Ford Wheaton on the first play of the fourth quarter.

West Virginia scored the first touchdown of the game, but Pitt’s ground game couldn’t find the rhythm it needed.

After Donaldson ran 44 yards to the pitt 10-yard line, Daniels gave the score to Ford-Wheaton with 12:45 left in the second quarter.

The touchdown eliminated Pitt’s 3–0 lead created by a 42-yard field goal by the sophomore Bensoles with 37 seconds left in the first quarter.

The drive started with Panthers 3.

The field goal was Soles’ first attempt in his college career after winning the job from incumbent Sam Scarton during training camp.

Pitt’s score was set almost exclusively by Slovis. Slovis completed all four 55-yard attempts and scrambled 14 yards during the drive.

A fumble exchange led to Pitt’s short-lived 10-7 lead.

First, Panthers wide receiver Bub Means lost a fumble after a 14-yard reception. The ball was recovered by Mountaineers linebacker Lee Pogba at WVU 32.

Two plays later, pit-free safety Eric Hallett recovered wide receiver Kaden Plather’s fumble at the WVU 35-yard line. The ball was shoved off by cornerback Marquis Williams. Pitt needed six plays to lead on a Hammond-run four-yard.

West Virginia countered with a 13-play, 74-yard possession that ended with Casey Legg’s 24-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can reach Jerry by email at [email protected] or on his Twitter. .

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