Things Have Changed At WVU, But Fans Excited For Old Rivalry

Things Have Changed At WVU, But Fans Excited For Old Rivalry


By: Bob Hertzel

The more things change in Morgantown, it seems, the more they stay the same.

I wandered into town more than two decades ago — which still makes me a newcomer, I have come to learn — and it’s hard to recognize the place.

Oh, the hills are the same, still alive with the sound of music, so to speak, and the rifle team remains national champions.

But so much construction has completely changed the landscape. There has been so much expansion of businesses that it has gone from a nice little college town into a rather large city, complete with the traffic to prove it.

What else is different? When I arrived, the Mountaineers were moving into the Big East. Now they are entrenched in the Big 12.

Couches are for sitting now, not burning.

Don Nehlen is in the Hall of Fame that he once supplied with football players, Gale Catlett is somewhere, the women’s soccer team is fighting for national titles and the men’s track team … well, let’s just say it was eliminated.

A lot has changed, but know what? The college kids still drink, the taxis never come, downtown is still downtown and it’s a fun place to live.

Especially in football season.

Oh, football has changed. This guy Holgorsen doesn’t run his team like Nehlen did, not even like that Rodriguez guy, and his quarterbacks throw the ball, don’t run with it. And this Big 12 thing, it’s here to stay but know what? Really, people aren’t giving up on the past.

If a quickie little Twitter poll I ran this week is any indication, the fans yearn for what they had.

Here’s the poll I ran:

Which is the Game of the Year in the upcoming football season: Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU?

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU are the three most attractive in the Big 12. Oklahoma is a national power almost every year; Oklahoma State is maybe the best team in the league with the best quarterback in Mason Rudolph; and TCU … well, I had the feeling they were working their way in as biggest rival in the conference.

The all-time series is tied at 3-3 and the first three games within the conference were classics: TCU winning, 39-38, in two overtimes in 2012; WVU winning, 30-27, on a Josh Lambert field goal in overtime in 2013; TCU winning, 31-30.

That was three games settled by five points, two in overtime.

Then two years ago TCU just beat WVU’s fannies at 40-10, but as so often happens in rivalries, the next year the Mountaineers gained their revenge with a 34-10 whipping.

So it was I thought this game would get some support in the poll.

The vote for Big 12 teams, in fact, didn’t amount to much.

Oklahoma, which also has laid the roots for a rivalry if anyone can think back to the Bill Stewart “Leave No Doubt” game and to Tavon Austin’s 572 all-purpose yards game which included a school-record 345 rushing yards only to lose 51-50 when Sooner quarterback Landry Jones threw for 554 yards and 6 touchdowns, was the game most favored among fans among the Big 12 teams.

So how did WVU fans vote?

Virginia Tech, 54 percent; Oklahoma, 38 percent; Oklahoma State, 9 percent; TCU, a lowly 1 percent.

In other words, among all the changes, what stayed the same with WVU’s taste for those turkey legs and those Hokies … and you know it would have 99 percent for Pitt had that been scheduled.

See, you can’t replace rivalries, at least until all us old fogeys who remember those games die off.

It’s like I went to Missouri back when Kansas still played football — that’s a joke, you Jayhawks — and I’d still rather see Missouri play Kansas than go against Mississippi State.

So, the fact that the Mountaineer administration has seen fit to work Virginia Tech and Pitt and Maryland into the sporting schedules may be the best thing they’ve done since … since …. since, well, let’s just put a period after the thing they’ve done.