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WVU is not lacking for motivation for Brawl

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By Josh Sickles
Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Well, we've seen this before.

West Virginia, coming off a big conference win, has a bye week then plays a rivalry game on a Friday night in front of a national television audience.

The Mountaineers hope it turns out a bit better this time.

West Virginia is trying to avoid a bye week letdown as it heads into the Backyard Brawl.

The Mountaineers are trying to maintain focus and treat it as just another game. Still, the Pitt-West Virginia series is one of the best rivalries on the East Coast — possibly in the nation — and it'll be hard to approach it like any other game.

"The good news is we're probably not going to have to do as much to get our players ready to play," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "It's probably harder to get our players ready to play an opponent they're not as familiar with than it is in a rivalry game."

Earlier this season, West Virginia convincingly beat Connecticut and entered its bye week riding high. Following the bye, the team prepared for a showdown with Syracuse on a Friday night.

The Mountaineers were completely outplayed and outcoached in a 49-23 loss, yielding 443 yards of offense to a lackluster Syracuse offense.

West Virginia hasn't done much differently in preparations for Pitt.

"We talked about it," he said. "We remember what happened (against Syracuse)."

Of course, Holgorsen has a much better motivational tool. It doesn't take much for his team to get up for the Backyard Brawl, considering the game's meaning to both schools.

"It's Pitt, Backyard Brawl," said redshirt senior guard Tyler Rader, a Cross Lanes, W.Va., native. "Growing up as a kid, it's always been a dream. It's senior night too, but I'm looking forward to going out there. It's going to be fun."

Redshirt senior safety Eain Smith: "I learned to hate Pitt real fast."

Even with the importance of this game, it could be the last one for the foreseeable future.

West Virginia is set on leaving the Big East to go to the Big 12 in 2012, and Pitt will eventually leave the conference for the ACC. Neither school has committed to continuing the Backyard Brawl, though both colleges seem to ideally want it.

It would benefit the Mountaineers, too. West Virginia would be able to keep a regional rivalry, because it will need to travel greater distances after joining the Big 12. It would also keep the Mountaineers in Western Pennsylvania's recruiting area.

But most importantly, the Backyard Brawl's meaning to both schools should be enough.

"We should play because of what it means to the community and the state (West Virginia) and Pittsburgh," Holgorsen said.

Note: With no school at West Virginia this week, the Mountaineers are able to do even more preparation for the Backyard Brawl. Holgorsen said the players and staff "will go 12 hours (a day) if we have to."

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