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A Very Football Birthday

The First Team
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

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.”  

Richard III

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.” 

Harry Clarke

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.

Fearsome Five

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.  

Old Mountaineer Field

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 the field. 

Bobby Bowden

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 the 1970s. 


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.

Penn State storm

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. 

Major Harris

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. 

Fiesta Bowl

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. 

Bill Stewart

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.

Orange Bowl

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.

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Fall 2014

Mountaineer spirit runs deep, and you’re invited behind-the-scenes to celebrate the heart of WVU athletics in moments large and small.

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Fall 2015

Golf is back, WVU women's soccer players wowed at the World Cup and a new tradition at Mountaineer Field was a hit.

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Fall 2017

Embrace the grace and grit of fall/winter sports at WVU.

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Spring 2015

This season we welcomed 5-year-old basketball player Nicholas Wince, said goodbye to legend Hot Rod Hundley and bagged a few championships.

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Summer 2016

Celebrate our athletes at the Rio Olympics.

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Summer 2017

See who's leading the weightlifting club at WVU. She's not messing around.

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