MORGANTOWN -Flash back in time to a cold and snowy 2009 night at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Then No. 8 Pittsburgh took to the artificial surface at Mountaineer Field with everything to lose as it took on a WVU squad looking to improve its position in the final Big East standings and earn a berth in a January bowl game.
With the game tied, 16-16, and time running out, the Mountaineers took over at their own 32-yard line. A 10-yard run by senior quarterback Jarrett Brown was followed by an 11-yard completion to Alric Arnett.
A Brown scramble for 9 yards and a clutch 1-yard carry on fourth down by Ryan Clarke placed WVU's offense in field goal position. Three running plays later then-freshman Tyler Bitancurt lined up for a 43-yard field goal attempt that would send the old gold and blue ahead.
"That was the biggest moment in my career," the now junior placekicker explained. "But, that was in the past. I am looking forward to the game on Friday."
Bitancurt, who had also connected on field goals from 20, 43 and 39 yards in the defensive-minded game, became an instant celebrity with songs being sung to praise him following the Mountaineers' 19-16 victory in the 102nd Backyard Brawl, Pitt's previous visit to Morgantown.
Back to the present.
No. 23 West Virginia (7-3, 3-2 Big East) plays host to a Panthers squad (5-5, 3-2 Big East) struggling to find itself under new head coach Todd Graham, a former Mountaineer assistant. But, one that is coming off of a 21-14 victory over a University of Louisville team that dealt the Mountaineers' a 38-35 setback.
"The rivalry, in itself, is huge," continued Bitancurt. "It means everything for the state. It's a Big East game and it's even bigger because it is Pitt."
A game that features two of the highest scoring offenses in the conference in a series that has rarely been decided by lopsided scores.
Game-winning field goals, like the one made by Bitancurt in 2009, have been the more acceptable norm to this series that began in 1885 and finds the Panthers holding a 61-39-3 overall edge in the series.
"That (beat Pitt) was the first thing that I heard when I got here," explained WVU senior linebacker Najee Goode. "You come here to beat Pitt. We (the seniors) are 2-2 against them so it is a big game for us seniors.
"We want to go out on top against those guys."
Goode will be one of 22 seniors that will play their final game at Mountaineer Field. A class that has put together 34 wins, a Big East championship, three nine-win seasons and three bowl trips.
But, not a trip to a BCS bowl.
"More than anything we want to continue winning because we want to go to a BCS bowl," added Goode, the team's leading tackler with 69 stops on the year. "We still have a chance to accomplish that with wins over Pitt and South Florida."
To accomplish the first part of that feat, however, Goode and his defensive teammates will have to devise a way to stop Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri, who has completed 191-of-300 attempts for 2,037 yards and nine touchdowns.
"They run a good offense," continued the linebacker. "Their offensive coordinator (Calvin McGee) used to be here. Even without Ray (Graham), they still have a good running back that we are going to have to stop. They still have good receivers. We (the defense) have got to play a good game."
Something that has happened in the second half in wins over Rutgers (41-31) and Cincinnati (24-21), but not on the consistent basis of a year ago.
"It looks (because of the loss of Graham) that they are depending more on (Tino) Sunseri," said senior defensive end Bruce Irvin. "He does a lot of things with his legs."
Things that would appear to play right into the hands of the Mountaineers' sack machine.
"Rushing the passer is my game," continued Irvin. "Anything passing is my strength. The key is making them have to pass plays right into what we want to do."
Something WVU was able to accomplish a year ago when they forced the Panther quarterback to throw the football 46 times, picking off one, while forcing six fumbles and recovering three in a 35-10 victory at Heinz Field. Sunseri has been picked off on eight occasions so far this season.
"When you watch him (Sunseri) on television, he is fiery and has a lot of energy," said first-year WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. "It means a lot to him. He loves to play the game. He is always in a good mood. He is a good player and keeps getting better.
"The more he plays in the system, the better he will get."
Words that can just as well be used to describe WVU junior quarterback Geno Smith.
Coming into his second start in the Backyard Brawl, Smith has completed 269-of-417 passes for 3,497 yards and 24 touchdowns with only five interceptions. In his first start against Pitt in the 103rd Backyard Brawl, Smith threw the ball just12 times, but completed nine for 212 yards and three touchdowns-two going to Tavon Austin.
"Geno Smith is very impressive, " said Graham. "He can make every throw, he extends plays and he is a tremendous player-one of the best in the country. They have a great receiving corps.
"Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey really stick out to me. Austin's ability to return kicks and punts is phenomenal. Those two are as good as there are in the country."