Jason Williams played linebacker for the Mountaineers from 1994-97 and made his first career start in the 1995 Backyard Brawl. Every other site that previews the Backyard Brawl today between the Pittsburgh Panthers and West Virginia Mountaineers are going to do so by telling you what to expect in this game by giving a rundown of stats, quotes, and situation. I thought that I would give our readers a Brawl preview from the perspective of someone who’s played in this rivalry and added his own blood, sweat, and tears to the game.
In Jason Williams’ (on Twitter @jmwill44) first ever start, he had a career game against the Panthers in 1995. He tallied 16 tackles, 1 recovered fumble, and 1 forced fumble in the game. He went on to record 117 tackles in his playing career to go along with 1 INT and 1 sack. Williams currently lives in Cincinnati, OH and is the Senior Sales Manager for the Butler County Visitors Bureau.
There is a lot riding on this game.
With the Mountaineers going to the Big 12 next season (hopefully) and Pitt leaving the Big East after next season for the ACC, this 104th Backyard Brawl could be the last time the two teams play each other for the foreseeable future. The Mountaineers come into the game with hopes of going to the BCS. The formula for getting there is simple: win out coupled with a loss by Louisville or USF. If WVU posts wins against Pitt and USF next week, they will end the season in a tie for the Big East Championship. Because the Mountaineers will most likely be ahead of any of the teams they could be tied with atop the standing, they will get the right to go to a BCS game. If Pitt wins out, they could also challenge for a BCS berth.
I had a conversation with Williams about what this game means, what the rivalry meant to him, about his experiences in the games, and memories of being with his teammates.
What did you know about the WVU/Pitt Rivalry coming to Morgantown from Youngstown, OH?
“Even being a Ohio guy I never fully understood the WVU Pitt rivalry, but it did not take long for me to realize that it was always the biggest game on our schedule every year. Coach Nehlan made that a point from the time freshmen arrived on campus until the last time you suit up against Pitt.”
What do you remember about spending time with your teammates? What did you enjoy?
“Some of the best memories were spending Thanksgiving with my teammates and coaches and having a great Thanksgiving meal at Lakeview. Even though we were away from our families during holiday, having dinner with my second family was just as fun for me.”
Tell us about your experiences in the Backyard Brawl.
“There are so many memories from the game that I could talk about for days but I will try to keep it short and sweet. The 1994 game when Chad Johnston threw the last sec TD pass to Zach Abraham was really my first taste of the rivalry. I just remember celebrating on the bus ride back to Morgantown and how excited we were to win that game when it looked like we were going to lose for sure.”
“The 1995 game was my first start at middle linebacker and I can remember how nervous I was at first, but once I settled down I ended up having one of the best games of my career (16 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery). The 1996 game I can remember was the first game of the year and I just remember how confident we were as a team and especially on defense. I think we shut them out and we all knew that we had a special group of guys on defense and to be the one of the leaders of the best defense in the history of WVU (number 1 in the country that year: 1996). That is something I that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
“Lastly my final game at Mountaineer field 1997 Triple OT loss to Pitt… was not the way you want to go out on Senior Day but I played as hard as I could and left it all on the field and as sad as I was that we lost the game I had no regrets walking off that field for the final time.”
What are your thoughts about this potentially being the last game in the series for the time being?
“I think it would be a real shame if the schools no longer play after this year. Being so close in proximity everyone from WVU know someone from Pitt and everyone from Pitt know someone from WVU. Once you become an alumni the game becomes just as important because the feelings about Pitt never change and if you lose you have to live with that for a whole year and being the last game of the year it always leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The best part of the rivalry is the tradition…from Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Curtis Martin, Larry Fitzgerald and Shady McCoy …to Jeff Hostetler, Oliver Luck, Darrel Talley, Adrian Murrell, Famous Amos, Pat White, Steve Slaton, Tavon Austin, …Players will come and players will go but as great as all the players I listed are, no one is bigger than the rivalry itself and that people is what makes the BACKYARD BRAWL one of the best rivalries in college football!
I would like to thank Jason for taking the time out to talk about the Backyard Brawl and sharing his experiences.
What are your thoughts about this year’s Brawl? And what do you think about this being the last game in this series for a while? Feel free to leave your comments below.