Friday, April 6, 2012

A dozen of my favorite Mountaineer plays

After writing about my favorite dozen Mountaineer games (see previous blog posting below), I decided to also write about the dozen best plays that come to mind for me. As with the best games, it was hard to limit it to just twelve, but despite lots of other good ones, these are the ones that mean the most to me.

1. The 1988 Penn State game at Mountaineer Field saw the most memorable play ever. Major Harris actually rolled the wrong way, forcing him to elude seven tacklers without blockers, and he did it. In Mountaineer lore, this run is known simply as “The Play” and deserves this simple title.

2. This huge victory over Penn State included another memorable play. With a big lead at the end of the second quarter, Nehlen called a simple draw play to run off the last few seconds before halftime. However, Undra Johnson was able to run about 70 yards to add one more touchdown to our insurmountable lead. After getting kicked around by PSU since 1955 (aside from a close victory in 1984), they needed a good beatdown. A game this great deserves two of the greatest plays.

3. One of the most outstanding debuts was when Amos Zereoue got his very first collegiate carry in 1996. It was an away game against Pitt, and his first run went for 69 yards and a touchdown. We knew he would be a good running back from the very start.

4. The Mountaineers played the Hurricanes in Miami in 2003, and almost knocked off Miami thanks to an incredible catch and run. Quincy Wilson caught a screen pass, ran through some tacklers, and then absolutely crushed a defensive back who tried to stop him (even leaping over him after the initial hit). This incredible touchdown run was bittersweet, however, because Kellen Winslow made a circus catch not long afterwards allowing Miami to retake the lead as the game ended.

5. Against Rutgers on a rainy day in Jersey back in 2007, the Mountaineers won big. As always in the Pat White/Steve Slaton era, there were numerous great plays, but one stands out, even though it wasn’t a touchdown. WVU’s big fullback, Owen Schmitt, actually jumped over top of a Rutgers defender who, as a result, completely missed him. It wasn’t the only time that Owen displayed his vertical jumping talents, but it was the most memorable.

6. After upsetting Pitt on their home field in 2002, the Panthers were seeking revenge in the 2003 edition of the “Backyard Brawl.” However, WVU beat them again on this Thanksgiving night, and the best play was an unbelievable catch in the endzone on a fourth down play just before halftime by native West Virginian John Pennington.

7. Another native West Virginian in 1994 had a game winning catch—from a native West Virginian quarterback, no less! The Backyard Brawl was crazy that year, with the lead going back and forth, but with a few seconds left in the game, Chad Johnston found Zack Abraham with a long bomb that won the game.

8. WVU’s undefeated season in 1993 almost didn’t happen, as BC held at 14-10 lead with about a minute to go at Boston in the season finale. However, receiver Ed Hill made an incredible catch in the end zone to give us a 17-14 victory (the same 17-14 score as several of our other biggest victories, like the Pitt game in 1975, or the Penn State game in 1984, or the Miami game in 1993—another fantastic game during that undefeated season).

9. In 1983, Jeff Hostetler beat Pitt with a bootleg run at the end of the game at Mountaineer Field. Pitt was a huge power in those days, and except for the 1975 upset at Old Mountaineer Field, they generally beat us. This play was an incredible memory for those of us who were there, as “Hoss” got down on a knee in the end zone to give thanks.

10. The 1983 victory at Boston College saw a touchdown on a fake punt. Fullback Ron Wolfley took advantage of BC’s alignment to call for the snap to go to him rather than the punter. He rambled for 67 yards to help us beat Doug Flutie on his home turf. [Of course, the fake punt in the 2006 Sugar Bowl also comes to mind.]

11. The 2007 Gator Bowl saw the “frozen line” touchdown in our win against Georgia Tech. The offensive line had been coached to keep their stance if someone jumped offside, but the center could snap the ball early if an opponent jumped—in order to get a penalty. It often confused the other side to see our lineman not move, but even though there is an offsides flag, the play is supposed to continue. In this case, Tito Gonzales streaked down the sidelines, and Pat White threw the bomb. It was a memorable touchdown!

12. In 2002, just as Rodriguez was getting the Mountaineers successful again, we played 12th ranked Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. With only about a minute to go, the Gobblers were ready to take the lead, with the ball just a few inches short of the goal line. However, Grant Wiley slashed through the line and tackled their runner several yards deep in the backfield on fourth down. It was an incredible defensive play that saved the game for us.
The view from our seats of the "Pride of West Virginia" marching band in the "Flying WV" formation at Mountaineer Field before a night game.

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