I told you on Tuesday that we were going to start getting into the not-so-fun moments in West Virginia sports history soon enough. We’ve had some fun with the Boyd/Heastie and conference apocalypse stuff, and now it’s time to get back on track with the things we don’t really want to talk about.
Let’s dive a little bit further into the 2011 season - all the way to November 5th when the No. 24 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers squared off with Charlie Strong’s Louisville Cardinals in what would be the last meeting between the two schools.
The West Virginia Mountaineers and Louisville Cardinals wasted no time forming a bitter rivalry after the birds joined the Big East when Virginia Tech and Miami jettisoned for the ACC. Things started off with a bang with the famous triple overtime game in Morgantown that introduced us to a Freshman by the name of Steve Slaton. The following year brought us a showdown of two top five teams, with the Cardinals claiming a 44-34 victory in the (NAME REDACTED) Cardinal Stadium. West Virginia would go on to win four straight following the 2006 loss, but the rivalry continued to grow.
It all came to a head in late October 2011.
With the conference apocalypse looming over college football, West Virginia and Louisville found their rivalry spilling over into the political realm when then Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell began to lobby the Big 12 Conference to back off their assurances to the Mountaineers and instead accept the Cardinals as the 10th member alongside the TCU Horned Frogs. This, of course, pissed off West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, who fired back at McConnell and the University of Louisville with a public statement.
“If a United States senator has done anything inappropriate or unethical to interfere with a decision that the Big 12 had already made, then I believe that there should be an investigation in the U.S. Senate, and I will fight to get the truth. West Virginians and the American people deserve to know exactly what is going on and whether politics is interfering with our college sports.” - Joe Manchin III, United States Senator from West Virginia
On October 28th, the Big 12 announced that the West Virginia Mountaineers would become the 10th member of the conference, shutting down McConnell’s desperate attempts to get the Cardinals out of the Big East. One week later, Charlie Strong’s Cardinals rode into Morgantown with a little extra fire in their belly. Not only were they fighting to keep their BCS bowl hopes alive, they were also looking to send a message to the Big 12 Conference.
Led by future NFL first round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville also boasted the Big East’s top defense - which held the Mountaineers scoreless in the third quarter for the first time all season. The Cardinals dealt a damaging blow when Adrian Bushell blocked a short field goal attempt from Tyler Bitancurt on the first play of the fourth quarter, which was scooped up and returned 82 yards by Andrew Johnson to put Louisville up 31-21.
The Mountaineers would go on to score two touchdowns to pull themselves to within three points with 1:07 remaining in the game. Louisville recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt by Corey Smith, and ran the clock out to give West Virginia their third loss of the season.
Following the game, Louisville players could be heard signing “Country Roads” in the visitor’s locker room...and then this happened:
Strong’s crowd surfing antics would resurface on November 8, 2014 when the No. 23 ranked West Virginia faced the 4-5 Longhorns in Strong’s first season in Austin, Texas. The game saw Texas running back Jonathan Gray explode for three touchdowns and 101 rushing yards in the 33-16 upset of the Mountaineers.
With Strong’s Longhorns delivering their biggest win of the season, there was a bit of a celebration in the Texas locker room.
Dana Holgorsen got the last laugh the following year, when the Mountaineers toppled the Longhorns 38-20 at Mountaineer Field. The victory gave West Virginia their second conference win that season, after starting 0-4 thanks to Deathtober, and Holgorsen wasted no time to celebrate getting things back on track with his team. Naturally, there was only one way to do it.
West Virginia beat Texas again in 2016, shutting down Charlie Strong’s last opportunity to crowd surf his way around the locker room after win over the Mountaineers...until he resurfaces at another Big 12 program in a couple years.