In 2004, the Penn State Nittany Lions student section started a tradition that has now echoed throughout college football. The students called for a White Out - all students wore a white-colored shirt - against Purdue. The tradition took hold and helped a dismal Penn State team almost knock off #9 Purdue Boilermakers. Yes, Purdue was once ranked #9.
Two years later, the stadium color came to the Big East when #5 West Virginia Mountaineers traveled to Louisville, Kentucky to take on the Bobby Petrino-led #5 Louisville Cardinals. Tell your children about #3 vs #5, when both teams resided in a Miami/Virginia Tech-less Big East and played on Thursday night. The Cardinals held a “Black Out” in which the entire stadium wore black and the team wore black uniforms and jumped on West Virginia 44-34, thanks in part to three turnovers.
Fast forward a year and now it was West Virginia’s opportunity to return the favor. Then head coach Rich Rodriguez called for a “Gold Rush” - all fans were to wear the Old Gold and turn the stadium into a gorgeous hue of yellow that rivals any fall mountain view. Fans responded and the first ever “Gold Rush” was born.
The Mountaineers were able to avenge their 2006 loss to the Cardinals as they staged a dramatic win as quarterback Pat White raced 50 yards for the game winning touchdown, raising his finger to victory for the last ten yards of his dash.
Since 2007, the Mountaineers have held a Gold Rush game every year. In 2008, the team faced SEC foe Auburn Tigers and won 34-17 despite falling behind 17-3. The defense would hold Auburn to 33 yards the entire second half and the offense would go to score 31 unanswered points. The 2009 game saw the Mountaineers beat the Colorado Buffaloes in a redemption game from the previous season.
West Virginia would improve to 4-0 in Gold Rush games in 2010 when they defeated Big East nemesis South Florida Bulls 20-6.
The 2011 game was notable for a couple of reasons. First, it is often cited as one of the most electric atmosphere any fan has been a part of at Milan-Puskar Stadium. The reason was the #2 team in the country, LSU Tigers were in town. Second, ESPN’s College Gameday showed up for the first time to Morgantown. Third, newly minted head coach Dana Holgorsen was bringing his high-powered Air Raid offense against one of the premiere defensive teams in the country. Fourth, it would mark the first Gold Rush game that West Virginia would lose.
[2012 would feature the worst performance by a West Virginia team as the Kansas State Wildcats completely dismantled the Mountaineers in their first Big 12 Gold Rush. The good news for Mountaineer fans is that is also the last time a Mountaineer team has lost a Gold Rush game.]
Actually, the 2012 Gold Rush was the most amazing individual performance anyone in the Old Gold and Blue has ever seen. Tavon Austin put up a performance for the ages and nearly single-handedly willed the Mountaineers to a win over the Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners, who have beaten the Mountaineers every year they’ve been in the Big 12 so far, had no answer for Austin, who put up the second most yards from scrimmage in NCAA history. The night would be immortalized by DougityDoug in one of the most watched highlight videos of all time.
2013 saw the biggest upset when the Clint Trickett-led Mountaineers, wearing my favorite Gold Rush uniforms, the banana suits, upended #11 Oklahoma State. 2013 was a transition year for Dana Holgorsen and his staff as the team lost Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey from the offense. The staff tried to Paul Millard and Ford Childress at quarterback before starting former Florida State Seminoles transfer Clint Trickett. In his first start for the Mountaineers, Trickett threw for 300 yards and the Mountaineer defense picked off OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh twice in a stunning upset.
From 2014 through 2018, the Gold Rush opponents have been a tad lackluster, removing some of the excitement from the game. In 2014, the Kansas Jayhawks, doormats of the Big 12, were the Gold Rush opponent. In 2015, the Maryland Terrapins visited Morgantown for the firs time since 2012. Maryland would enter the game 2-1 but the loss to the Mountaineers would start an 8-game losing streak for the Turtles who would finish the season 3-9. 2016, the opening day opponent Missouri Tigers were ambushed by the Mountaineers. Longtime head coach Gary Pinkel chose to retire after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was replaced by longtime defensive coordinator Barry Odom. The Tigers would struggle to 4-8 in 2016. 2017 brought a familiar face in the ECU Pirates. The game was a laugher at 56-20 as former Florida quarterback Will Grier threw for 352 yards and five touchdowns.
Since 2011, the Mountaineers have worn four different uniform combinations. The most common combination is blue helmets, gold jerseys and pants. This harkens back to the very first gold rush between the Mountaineers and Louisville. The Mountaineers have
twice once worn full blue uniforms (Auburn 2008). Once they wore full gold (OSU 2013) and once they wore throwback helmets, gold jerseys and white pants.
What is your favorite Gold Rush uniform combination
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