WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — Mountaineers have kept alive their own rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. But after an 11-year hiatus, Pittsburgh will yet again hear our sweet, sweet chorus in the stands! And for the sake of nostalgia, 7NEWS met up with some of the legends who once helped take down our infamous rival.
Video from 1994 shows once wide receiver Zach Abraham with his running touchdown! That was 28 years ago.
“Every time you watch the video. You get those feelings back. But I would tell you; at the time, you were just playing the game.”Zach Abraham, Former WVU Wide Receiver
Abraham was a walk-on and in his senior year. Fall of 1994 was a rough season for the Mountaineers. But they played Missouri and won. WVU was one in five going into the game. They needed to beat Pitt.
“Coach never liked Pitt and we never liked Pitt either. It was a good rivalry game because he always told the story of the lion in the well and we were the Mountaineer at the top of the well. And we had to keep hitting the panther, or lion, back into the well.”Zach Abraham, Former WVU Wide Receiver
At 14 seconds to go, they changed the trajectory of the year. Zach Abraham’s receiving touchdown would pave the way for a 6 in 5 season.
The rivalry spans over a century! And, according to University of Pittsburgh archives, the first Backyard Brawl took place in Wheeling in 1895.
In Morgantown, parties would reach their peak in 1975 with of the longest post-game celebration on record!
Walk-on Warwood native, Bill McKenzie says when he ran out of the tunnel, you could tell from the cheers that they were versing Pitt.
“You could definitely tell the Pitt game. It’s just, twice as loud,” said McKenzie.
Pitt had the ball, first in 10 with a minute to go. Then there was a turnover.
“With Tony Dorsett playing, you don’t figure with less than a minute that you’re ever going to have a chance,” said McKenzie.
But in a 14-14 game, with four seconds remaining, McKenzie attempted a 38-yard field-goal kick and was successful!
And now years later…
“Our quarterback coach that year said to me, ‘Zach, you’ll be remembered for the rest of your life for that catch.’ I said, ‘Coach, what about all the other catches and touchdowns I had?’ He said, ‘It doesn’t matter. That’s the one they will remember.’ And it’s true. Very true.”
“With all the hundreds of thousands of people that go through West Virginia, when they mention your name, everybody lights up. I mean, it’s great. I don’t even know how to explain that.”Abraham and McKenzie
Both the WVU legends hope the Backyard Brawl stays for years to come.