Opener Shows Why Rivalry Should Be Played Every 12 Months – Not 12 Years
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There were so many messages being delivered Sunday night as West Virginia and Virginia Tech played a classic college football game at FedExField in Landover, Maryland.
How many were received remain to be seen, but there is one that has to be acted upon.
These two teams need to play that Black Diamond Classic every year.
And not on a neutral field, but at one of their home stadiums, which are classic settings for what takes part when these teams play.
The emotion on the field was awesome and the mood of the crowd was electric.
Sometimes it’s the beer and the tailgate parties speaking when a crowd goes wild, but this was more than that. This was two teams and two fanbases that know they are at their best when they are competing against each other.
It’s insane that this rivalry was cut off, just as insane as it was that the Backyard Brawl was cut off, for those define the game of college football.
It isn’t Appalachian State upsetting Michigan or Baylor losing to Liberty, not in the least.
It is two schools with a long and bitter history, schools like WVU and Virginia Tech who have much in common, schools where football means everything.
We’re talking Army-Navy and Michigan-Ohio State and Alabama-Auburn, yes.
That’s rivalries at the highest level, but it goes clear through football and as beneficial as the move to the Big 12 has been for WVU’s athletic department, there was no one left to play McCoy to the Mountaineers’ Hatfield.
You saw it every moment in this WVU-Virginia Tech game, in Don Nehlen and Frank Beamer on their sidelines, in kids who had never played in the rivalry caught up into it as if they themselves had watched Michael Vick run down the sideline in the final seconds to steal a game away from WVU.
This was not an easy game. The heat had everyone cramping, if you can imagine it being to such an extent the WVU punter, Billy Kinney, had a cramp as he kicked.
He was joined by Al-Rasheed Benton and Justin Crawford and Gary Jennings and Kyzir White.
Big time players, hurting but playing on.
There was another message carried and that was that you had a match up of a pair of quarterbacks with heart in WVU’s glamor boy, Will Grier, the Florida transfer who waited almost two years to get back into the game.
After a slow start he heated up and man he can sling a football, completing 31 of 53 passes for 371 yards, showing that this year’s team is a whole lot different than last year’s.
Wide receiver Gary Jennings caught 13 passes for 189 yards in the game. All last year he caught 10 passes for 165 yards.
That different … but it was the way Grier performed on the final drive that sputtered out at the 15 that showed what he’s made of. This wasn’t a drive where he was whipping balls through the air, for he was in a situation where first downs were needed and Tech was “throwing everything at him.”
Time after time he escaped, not like Pat White, but like Will Grier, good enough to scratch and claw his way to first downs.
And on the other side it was Jackson, playing his first college game in a difficult setting, not in the comfort of home, appearing on national television and caught up in a battle. He threw for 235 yards ran for 102 and, on Tech’s final touchdown drive that broke a 24-24 tie, he ran for 41 yards on one play and made every play.
Consider that he did not throw an interception while even Grier had one that really hurt.
Dana Holgorsen after the game vowed that “we will get better” and you know that’s the case.
This is a team that has possibilities and losing to the No. 22 team in the nation is not a bad sign, considering the game it was.
And so the Black Diamond Trophy stays in Blacksburg, where it had been for the last 4,719 days going into Sunday night’s game.
That’s because these two teams did not play for 12 years.
They should play every 12 months.