DAVE WANNSTEDT NEEDED his team to do some studying.

The Pitt football coach was leading the 4-7 Panthers into the 2007 edition of the Backyard Brawl against No. 2 West Virginia in Morgantown as a 28.5-point underdog.

But he wasn't concerned with showing his players blitzes or screen passes. Instead, he showed them pictures of the bus Pitt would ride into West Virginia and told them stories of the team bus getting pelted with beer bottles and rocks on previous trips to Morgantown.

"I was just trying to tell our players, 'We better get ready for what we're driving into here. This is more than just a college football game,'" Wannstedt said.

Star running back LeSean "Shady" McCoy was ready.

"So we're driving in on the bus, and it's quiet," Wannstedt recalled. "And all of a sudden ... Bang! Bang! Here it comes. And Shady kind of stands up and says, 'Hey, Coach, just like we saw on the tape!' and then the whole bus just comes alive."

Things were just getting started. On the first play of the game -- a 12-yard run from McCoy -- West Virginia defensive end Johnny Dingle and Pitt tackle Jeff Otah were called for personal fouls after getting into a scuffle after the whistle.

"Both these guys dropped their gloves and just started wailing on each other, and the whistles were blowing," Wannstedt said. "And I'm standing on the sidelines, I ruptured my Achilles [a month earlier] and I'm on crutches, laughing to myself.

"I said, 'Well, these guys get it. We are in the Backyard Brawl.'"

TO UNDERSTAND THE passion of the Backyard Brawl, one must understand the region and demographics in which the age-old rivalry exists. The teams first met in 1895 but, largely because of conference realignment, the game has been on hold since 2011. It returns Thursday night in Pittsburgh (7 ET, ESPN and ESPN App), and the intensity that built up over 104 meetings (Pitt leads 61-40-3) can't be erased by an 11-year pause.