Mountaineer Moments in Adversity
Since his arrival in Morgantown, Head Coach Neal Brown dealt with plenty of adversity. In season One, he dealt with the loss of the vast majority of his offensive production and more than half of his defensive production. He took over a full rebuild. In Season Two, he dealt with COVID while working to build his own culture from the embers of a 5-7 season. In Season Three, he dealt with the worst of the transfer portal seeing many of the remaining Dana Holgorsen hangovers leave the program. Add to that the wild west of NIL compensation. Overcoming adversity remains ingrained in the fabric of West Virginia, however, and we think this is the season Brown’s squad starts to rebound in a big way. Thus, we introduce our theme for the 2022 season: Mountaineer Moments in Adversity.
In this series, we will count down ten moments when West Virginia football overcame long odds to build on the program. In many ways, we found ourselves inspired by our recent interview with Dale Wolfley. His attitude embodies that spirit. Cheesy or cliche as it may sound, the fact remains: true Mountaineers do not yield. They keep fighting in the face of whatever is thrown at them, and they do it with genuine spirit.
Number 10: Win One Against a Ranked Team
As hard as it may be to believe, the AP poll has not been around forever. While the first college football game took place way back in 1869, the first AP poll saw its release nearly 70 years later in 1936. The West Virginia Mountaineers played their first game in 1909, and they played their first AP-ranked opponent in 1941, a 27-0 loss to Fordham.
The Mountaineers were far from a household name during this era of college football. They had a winning record through their 1950 season, for example, but they were still playing games regularly against teams like Bethany College, Waynesburg, and Otterbein. The game was not quite a national spectacle as it is today quite yet, though it was growing and WVU found itself falling behind.
Between 1936 and 1951, in fact, West Virginia played just seven games against AP-ranked opponents. They lost all seven by a combined score of 225-42 (or an average score of 32-6). Against nationally-ranked teams, the Mountaineers were simply outpaced. As a result, they simply couldn’t gain national recognition as a program.
Flipping a Rivalry
In their 1952 season, however, the Mountaineers finally gave a close effort against Penn State by putting up 21 points. They lost the game, but they proved they belonged on the field. Just two weeks later, West Virginia traveled to Pitt sporting a two and two record.
Prior to this point, by the way, West Virginia struggled mightily against Pitt, who, by this point, was a household name. They claimed four national championships by this season. Predictably, then, WVU saw limited success against their long-time foe, going just 9-34-1 through the 1951 version of the Backyard Brawl. Indeed, they had won just one of their prior 20 games against Pitt heading into 1952.
That year, though, the Mountaineers flipped the rivalry and beat their first AP-ranked opponent in the same game. They did so in a convincing fashion, too, shutting out the Panthers 16-0. Pitt ended the season ranked 16th in the nation, so the ranking was no fluke either.
Since that game, West Virginia owns the series lead 30-27-2. With this win, then, the Mountaineers did plenty for the program. They flipped the script on their fiercest rival; they announced themselves to a larger audience, and they won their first game against a ranked team.
For that effort, the Mountaineers found their way into the AP poll for the first time in their history, beginning the season ranked 16th. To add a bit of icing, West Virginia traveled to Pitt to begin that 1953 season and they won again, making that their second win over an AP-ranked team. They even climbed as high as 5th in the AP polls that year.
What Comes Next?
We will continue our series featuring Mountaineer Moments in adversity staying close to home. As for the Mountaineers, again, we think this season will represent Coach Brown’s own climb back into favor with fans as the team comes closer together and overcomes the adversity it has faced over the last several seasons. Stay tuned.