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Weather could be major factor in Brawl

November 26, 2010
By JOHN WICKLINE, Staff Writer

MORGANTOWN - The Backyard Brawl could be slowed to a backyard crawl if a rain/snow mix muddies up an already sloppy playing surface at Heinz Field.

Temperatures are not expected to get out of the 30s when Pitt and West Virginia tangle at noon today in Pittsburgh.

The National Football League has been asked to monitor the playing field at the Steelers' stadium after complaints were raised by both the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots regarding the poor footing between the hashmarks from 30-yard line to 30-yard line. Steelers officials announced this week that they are planning to resod Heinz Field, but are finding the time to do so difficult because of Pitt games and the local high school playoffs.

"We've put together something we think will work," said WVU assistant coach Jeff Mullen. "If it becomes a situation where it's really bad and you can't do certain things, then we will go to the playbook."

WVU coach Bill Stewart said his team will have to adapt to the weather conditions and make adjustments accordingly.

"When you play on a wet surface, you have to keep your feet under you," he said. "You have to narrow your base, and you can't overstride."

How the playing conditions will benefit one team or another is still up for debate. Pitt features two of the league's top running backs in Dion Lewis and Ray Graham, and it has the Big East Conference's top rushing attack.

But the Mountaineers have one of the best defenses against the run in the nation, ranking fourth in the country with an average allowance of just 88 yards per game. The Mountaineers ranked 12th overall among the nation's defenses, allowing just 245 yards and 12 points per game.

"I would rather play in the snow and mud because that forces people to keep the ball on the ground," said WVU defensive lineman Chris Neild. "We love playing against the run. But we know it helps their defense against our offense."



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