It occurred to me this week that I haven’t felt like I do this season in almost three decades.
1984 was my first year at WVU. It was Hall of Fame Coach Don Nehlen’s fifth. The previous season, 1983, the Mountaineers finished 9-3 and were led by Senior Jeff Hostetler, who threw for 2,345 yards and had a QB rating of 129.7. It was a great time to be a Mountaineer.
In many ways 1984 was supposed to be a "rebuilding" year. An undersized and untested QB named Kevin White was under center. WR Willie Drewery was the offensive and special teams spark plug. The defensive secondary included a future NFL defensive back, Travis Curtis, and a walk-on named Rich Rodriguez.
To the great delight of fans, the Mountaineers found themselves in the middle of the major bowl discussion. After consecutive wins over #4 Boston College (with Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie at the helm) and #16 Penn State (breaking a 25-year losing streak against the Shittany Lions), folks around Morgantown and on television were talking about going to the Orange Bowl.
Then the bottom fell out.
After reaching a ranking of #12 with a 7-1 start, WVU lost three consecutive games to unranked opponents Virginia, Rutgers and Temple. That was my first lesson in optimism run amok. Somewhere in the middle of all of the excitement of ripping down goal posts two weeks in a row and burning couches in Sunnyside, I forgot that we were in a rebuilding year.
Instead of the Orange Bowl in Miami on New Year’s Day, the Mountaineers received the coveted invitation to the Blue Bonnet Bowl. That’s right, the margarine company used to sponsor a bowl game. And damn it, we were going! The opponent that night in the Houston Astrodome was Texas Christian University. WVU came out strong and never looked back on their way to a 31-14 win. It was the last bowl victory before our dreaded 16-year post-season victory drought.
This week we host TCU after two devastating losses that left many in Mountaineer nation feeling the way we did in 1984. Disappointed, disillusioned, but also embarrassed that we got our hopes up in spite of the fact that we knew our defense was in the mother of all rebuilding years (young players & a first year/first time coordinator).
The good news is that in 1984 TCU was a punching bag to a frustrated and disappointed football team that wanted to finish strong. Let’s hope history continues to repeat itself.