Fuente, Foster Praise WVU, But Want Black Diamond Blacksburg Bound

Rivalry Reinstated With Spark From Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It started with a Virginia Tech fan asking Dana Holgorsen if the Hokies had hopes against West Virginia in the renewal of this interstate rivalry.

“Ya got no damn chance!” Holgorsen replied.

That was during the summer, and things had settled nicely, the two coaching staffs complementing each other and showing admiration for the other winning 10 games a season ago. But a recent Foster comment has upped the ante a bit, with Virginia Tech’s official football account releasing a picture in which Foster is shown, along with his comments while addressing the Hokies about the significance of the rivalry.

“This game…there is a hatred,” Foster said. “We played 33 straight seasons from 1973-2005. In those 33, they won 17 and we won 16. This is a true rivalry game. We have to have an edge. It’s gonna be a fist fight for all 60 minutes. Respect your opponent and get ready to go to battle. We intend to keep that trophy in Blacksburg.”

That refers, of course, to the Black Diamond Trophy presented to the winner. West Virginia and Virginia Tech have split the past four meetings, but the Hokies won the last two, in 2004 and ’05, meaning the Black Diamond has taken up residency, officially or in memory, in the Old Dominion state for the past 13 years. Now, it’s being dusted off and brought back to Landover, Md. for the Sunday night affair.

“A lot of great memories and some big football games, some important football games,” Foster said when asked about what he most recalled in facing WVU. “These programs parallel each other in a lot of ways as far as the blue collar mentality, the toughness of the kids. Got a lot of respect for this program who we’re about to play but I’m excited that this rivalry is kicking back off again.”

Head coach Justin Fuente, whose ties to Mountaineer offensive coordinator Jake Spavital have been well-documented, discussed the emotions that go into such a contest, even for the majority of players who were not quite 10 years old the last time the teams played. It’s an opener, for one, and that in and of itself amplifies the intensity.

“When you kick it off to start the season on a fantastic stage against a great opponent, you can’t help but feel all of those emotions as the ball kicks off,” Fuente said. “I don’t know if it’s because of the anxiety that goes with playing early in the year or what it is. We try to take that into consideration early in the year.”

After being involved with Virginia Tech for 30 seasons, and part of the battle for the Black Diamond Trophy from 1987-2005, Foster recalls more the good than the bad. There were hard feelings between the fan bases when Tech left the Big East to enter the ACC starting in late 2004, even though the Hokies were acting in self-preservation for the floundering league. The teams played twice more as nonconference foes, and West Virginia exited the Big East for the Big 12 in 2012.

The teams haven’t met since, but those 18 years with Foster on the sideline spurred some memories. The coordinator recalled a goal line stand against Major Harris and West Virginia’s 9th-ranked, undefeated team when the Mountaineers came off a mortifying tie of Pitt after leading 31-9 in the second half. He also remembered the 1999 Tech rally late on the Michael Vick scramble. No mention, of course, of WVU’s upset in Blacksburg in 2002, or the 28-7 whipping taken by the Hokies when they were ranked No. 3 a season later.

“From an emotional standpoint, you’re just in it for the kids,” said Foster, the longest-tenured coach at the NCAA FBS level. “We live vicariously as coaches through these guys and I’m really excited for them. I’d like to think that they’re a part of an extension of us, too. I’m hoping we will play with controlled recklessness, with a lot of emotional enthusiasm, and with an unmatched effort and attitude.”