When rivals meet, they say you can throw the records out. That was certainly the case on this day 40 years ago.
In a rivalry dubbed the “Backyard Brawl,” West Virginia had No. 2 Pittsburgh on the ropes. In the end, two touchdown drives led by Dan Marino, a safety, and a missed field goal were the difference as Pittsburgh prevailed, 16-13.
Setting the Stage
Second-ranked Pitt was 3-0 and had already knocked off a pair of ranked teams as it got set to play at Pitt Stadium for the first time on Oct. 2, 1982. Under first-year head coach Foge Fazio, the Panthers were looking to beat rival West Virginia for the seventh straight time.
West Virginia was also 3-0 and caught the country’s attention by winning at No. 9 Oklahoma to open the season. Ranked No. 14, West Virginia seemed on its way to making another statement.
Two West Virginia field goals accounted for all the scoring for the first three quarters, but that lead was extended in the fourth when Darryl Talley blocked and recovered a Pittsburgh punt in the end zone. With a 13-0 lead and Pitt’s offense spiraling, things seemed perfect for the Mountaineers.
When he had to, however, Marino found his rhythm.
After Marino marched the Panthers down the field, Bryan Thomas scored from three yards out to get Pitt on the scoreboard. Up 13-7, West Virginia was near midfield when quarterback Jeff Hostetler was unable to handle a snap from center Billy Legg. Legg had just replaced injured starter Dave Johnson; Pitt recovered and took advantage.
Marino converted two third downs on the drive before finding Julius Dawkins for a 6-yard touchdown with 3:26 remaining. Pitt led 14-13 and appeared to have sealed the win with less than a minute remaining when Hostetler was forced out of the end zone for a safety. Paul Woodside, the kicker, proceeded to execute an onside kick and the Mountaineers had new life.
West Virginia managed to get close enough for Woodside to try a game-tying 52-yard field goal with seven seconds left.
To that point, Woodside had made 15 straight field goals. His tying attempt, however, came up just inches shy of the crossbar.
The Panthers had survived.
Marino overcame two interceptions to finish with 211 yards passing in the win. Hostetler passed for 214 yards in the defeat. In addition to the blocked punt and touchdown, Talley recorded 10 tackles for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia athletics
Both teams would go on to finish 9-3 and have their seasons end in somewhat disappointing fashion. West Virginia finished the regular season on a 4-game winning streak and ranked in the top 10, but was handled by Florida State in the Gator Bowl.
Pitt started 7-0 and ascended to No. 1, but dropped three of its final five games, including the Cotton Bowl to SMU.
Looking back, the 7-game winning streak over West Virginia is the second longest streak in the history of the Backyard Brawl. There hasn’t been such a streak since. The final of those Pitt victories came in dramatic fashion and on this day four decades ago.
Featured image courtesy of Pittsburgh athletics