MORGANTOWN - J.T. Thomas was at the Big East's annual summer football meetings and media day event in early August when the subject of Pitt came up.
Now, typically at those gatherings in Newport, R.I., players from all eight of the league's schools mix. There is a Monday night clambake at the Eisenhower House at Fort Adams State Park, where it's common to find players, coaches and administrators from even the most bitter rivals acting as close as kin.
Not Thomas, though. Not with any Panthers.
"It doesn't matter where we are. It's Pitt and we don't like those guys,'' the West Virginia linebacker said when the subject of fraternization came up. "I'm not going to act like I like them or that they like me. I don't even like walking next to them.''
Well, suffice it to say that little has changed for Thomas in the past few months. On Friday, West Virginia (7-3, 3-2 Big East) and Pitt (6-4, 4-1) play in the 103rd Backyard Brawl, a noon game at Heinz Field. Both teams have a chance to move closer to a Big East title and possible BCS bowl berth win a win.
As far as Thomas is concerned, though, it doesn't matter how much is at stake in the game from the standpoint of Big East standings or bowl possibilities.
"I don't care what's on the line. I don't care if they're in the SEC,'' Thomas said Saturday after WVU's 17-10 win at Louisville. "The Backyard Brawl is the Backyard Brawl.''
Long after WVU's sports information staff had moved out of the press box at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, this handwritten note was found left behind:
"With that last catch, Jock Sanders becomes WVU's all-time receptions leader with 192 career catches.''
It was apparently intended for the Louisville public address announcer, but it was never needed. Sanders, who needed three catches to pass David Saunders for first place on WVU's all-time list, got two in the first half, but then was shut out the rest of the way.
In fact, he barely got the two to tie Saunders. His first was a nifty catch-and-run to convert a third down and set up a touchdown, but the second was for no gain and would have been wiped out altogether had Louisville not declined a holding penalty on the play.
Still, Sanders extended his consecutive games with a catch streak to 38 and when he almost certainly makes it 39 at Pitt, he will break Saunders' record of 191 career catches.