MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia and Pitt haven’t squared off on the gridiron in 11 years.
However, there is one player on WVU’s roster who has faced the Panthers while that rivalry was on hiatus. It just wasn’t in a gold and blue uniform.
Tight end Brian Polendey, who transferred from Colorado State in January, started his collegiate career at Miami. In 2017, the Hurricanes faced the Panthers at the stadium formerly known as Heinz Field.
“A lot of guys don’t know I’ve played them before, but the guys that do ask what it’s like to play up in Pittsburgh at an NFL stadium. They’ve asked more about that environment than actually playing Pitt,” Polendey said. “For a lot of guys on the team, it is going to be their first college game, so I’ve just tried to relay what that is going to be like.”
Hopefully, it will be quite the opposite of what Polendey experienced in the Steel City five years ago.
“We were 10-0. We had a game get canceled but that was our last one of the season. It was our first loss of the year. I just remember Pitt getting after us the whole game,” he said. “Ever since then, I haven’t really liked Pitt very much, but I respect them, for sure.”
Miami not only entered that game undefeated, but it was also the No. 2 team in the country and was riding an FBS-leading 15-game winning streak at the time. The 24-14 win was just Pitt’s fifth of the season.
“I remember our coaches telling us don’t look past this game because it’s a trap game. Pitt was good, but when I was at Miami, we were good, too,” Polendey said. “I think it was a combination of that plus a couple of critical injuries going into the second half that led us to lose that game. You definitely don’t want to lose a game ever, but we still had a good year. That one definitely hurt.”
Another thing about that game that sticks out to Polendey is the weather. The final box score says it was a sunny and cool afternoon with a temperature of 43 degrees, but the tight end remembers it being “weird.”
“It was one of those games where it was early afternoon in Pittsburgh. Kind of drizzling outside, overcast. We were all looking ahead for sure,” he said.
While Polendey can still remember the forecast and final result just like it was yesterday, the main thing that remains fresh in his mind is the lesson learned from that Pitt loss: always respect your opponent.
As one of the only WVU players who has faced Pitt during his collegiate career (along with guard Doug Nester and linebackers Lee Kpogba and Tirek Austin-Cave), Polendey hopes to instill that mindset in his teammates before Sept. 1.