Mountaineer Memories: The Greatest Football Game in West Virginia History

RG YohoCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02:  Field judge Bobby Aillet Jr. signals touchdown during the game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the West Virginia Mountaineers at the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium January 2, 2008 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

They are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Mountaineer Field at the West Virginia sports site, . One of the columnists is counting down the 30 most memorable games played there. He is currently down to No. 20.

I have no idea what the man will choose as the most memorable game in the stadium’s history. However, I have no question about which game I would select for that honor.

Moreover, I’d be more than willing to bet my selection will also rank among the columnist’s top five.

As a life—long Mountaineer fan, I’ve been fortunate to see many great games, and numerous outstanding players roam the gridiron in Morgantown, West Virginia.

It is also hard for many people to objectively pick a greatest game, because they are often limited by their age. Therefore, they tend to leave out the games beyond the scope of their individual memories.

I have personally witnessed all three triple—overtime games the Mountaineers played. At least two of those football games would easily rank in my top 20.

In my opinion, the greatest game in Mountaineer history occurred in 1984, West Virginia versus Boston College.

Doug Flutie, who would eventually win the Heisman Trophy that year was a senior. Despite the success he enjoyed as a quarterback for his No. 4 ranked Eagles, Flutie had never beaten the 19th-ranked Mountaineers.

Starting under center for the Mountaineers was the unheralded senior Kevin White, from Casa Grande, Arizona.

The contest was a night game, nationally televised by ABC Sports. Keith Jackson called the game,and Frank Broyles added the commentary.

The first half was nothing to remember for West Virginia fans.

Just before halftime, Flutie went back to pass, faked a run, and then burned Mountaineer defensive back Mike Scott with a long touchdown pass.

When the teams went to the locker room at the half, the Eagles led the game 20-6.

Before departing for the locker room, the Boston College players smugly taunted the shaken Mountaineer faithful.

Nobody would have predicted those would be the Eagles' final points that night.

At halftime, coach Don Nehlen made a risky decision, surmising the only way to beat Flutie was to sack him. They would blitz. Therefore, on every defensive play to follow, the coach sent all his ground troops to stop the Flutie air attack.

The Mountaineers blitzed. Flutie scrambled. West Virginia hounded. They attacked. They chased. They pursued. They hunted. They were relentless.

Nehlen’s strategy worked.

Despite their best efforts, Flutie’s talented offensive line eventually faltered. As a result of the unrelenting Mountaineer onslaught, Matt Smith sacked the quarterback once. Freddie Smalls added two more sacks.

Those watching the game on television or watching from the stands could see the constant pressure was taking a toll on the Eagles' senior signal caller.

As the apparent victory seemed to be slipping away from him, a frustrated Flutie saw his confidence shaken. He clearly lost his composure.

With less than five minutes to go in the game, John Gay carried the ball into the end zone for the Mountaineers. West Virginia failed to convert on their two-point try.

With Flutie at the helm, not one of us sitting in those stands felt confident with a one-point lead. But the Mountaineer defense proved to be impenetrable, keeping the Eagles and Flutie scoreless for the half.

When the final gun sounded, the Mountaineers stunned the entire country, winning the game 21-20.

To this day, it is one of the most lasting memories of West Virginia football that my dad and I share, the greatest game in Mountaineer history.


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