Mountaineer football is turning 125 – and we’re here to tackle the team’s most defining moments dating back to 1891. To delve further into WVU football history, visit go.wvu.edu/125
West Virginia University’s pigskin debut on Nov. 28, 1891, ended with a whopping
score of 72-0. Unfortunately, WVU’s opponent, Washington & Jefferson College,
was the team that scored those 72 points. It was the only game WVU played
that season as the team took a year off in 1892 to regroup and learn more about
the game. Up until 1905, the team was known as “The Snakes.”
WVU’s first-ever football game racked up debt for the players when they failed
to raise enough money for Washington & Jefferson’s travel expenses. The Presidents
had endured a daylong, horse-and-buggy trip from Washington, Pa., to Morgantown
(though it appeared to have zero effect on their domination of WVU). To pay off
the debt, WVU players staged a production of Shakespeare’s “Richard III.”
In the 1938 season, Harry Clarke rushed for 921 yards, a record at the time. He
was inducted into the WVU Hall of Fame in 1977 and played professionally for
the Chicago Bears.
The 1952 fearsome five of Bob Moss, Sam Huff, Bruce Bosley, Joe Marconi and Fred
Wyant arguably made up WVU’s best football recruiting class ever. The five pushed
the Mountaineers to a 31-7 record during a four-year period and WVU’s first major
bowl appearance in the 1954 Sugar Bowl.
Some of us remember the charm of “old” Mountaineer Field, nestled in the heart of
WVU’s Downtown campus. The stadium, which cost $740,000 to build, opened in 1924
and closed in 1979. In this 1967 photo, you can see Woodburn Hall towering above
Before winning national titles with the Florida State Seminoles, Bobby Bowden honed
his coaching chops at WVU from 1970-1975. In those six seasons, the Mountaineers
went 42-26. Bowden’s departure signaled the end of WVU’s winning ways in
All-American linebacker Darryl Talley squares off against the Pittsburgh Panthers
in the 1980 edition of the Backyard Brawl. Talley went on to play in four Super
Bowls with the Buffalo Bills.
The WVU-Penn State football rivalry, which dates back to 1904, has not been
too kind to the Mountaineers. Penn State leads the series 48-9-2, but the 1984
game was particularly special for the gold-and-blue. It marked the first time
WVU beat Penn State in Morgantown since 1955. Fans stormed the field afterwards
– and they did so again in 1988, the last time WVU defeated Penn State. The
series will resume in 2023.
College Football Hall of Famer Major Harris is remembered as one of the greatest
Mountaineers of all time. The All-American quarterback was a Heisman Trophy
contender in 1988 and 1989.
Legendary coach Don Nehlen leads the Mountaineers onto the field against Notre
Dame at the 1989 Fiesta Bowl for that year’s national championship game. Both
teams finished the regular season undefeated but the luck was with the Irish
here with Notre Dame winning 34-21.
WVU faced an uphill battle in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. The team was considered heavy underdogs against the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners, and the abrupt departure of coach Rich Rodriguez for Michigan certainly didn’t help matters. But this story has a gold-and-blue ending. Interim coach Bill Stewart delivered his fiery “Leave No Doubt” pregame speech that led the Mountaineers to a 48-28 victory.
In one of WVU’s more recent monumental wins, quarterback Geno Smith (right), coach Dana Holgorsen (left) and company plowed over the Clemson Tigers with a score of 70-33 in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
Mountaineer Spirit Archive
A Very Football Birthday
Mountaineer football is turning 125 - and we're here to tackle the team's most defining moments dating back to 1891.
Mountaineer spirit runs deep, and you’re invited behind-the-scenes to celebrate the heart of WVU athletics in moments large and small.
Golf is back, WVU women's soccer players wowed at the World Cup and a new tradition at Mountaineer Field was a hit.
This season we welcomed 5-year-old basketball player Nicholas Wince, said goodbye to legend Hot Rod Hundley and bagged a few championships.