So i ran a poll on Twitter yesterday asking which of three injuries is the most significant in West Virginia Mountaineers history. There is a reason I say significant and not a host of other adjectives because while two of the injuries were heartbreakers, one jump started an era. Not all injuries have to be “bad”.
So which of these three injuries is the most significant?
Major Harris’ shoulder injury vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish
This is the one that jumps to most people’s minds when we talk about this subject and for good reason. It was the one time that West Virginia was on the doorstep of a national championship. West Virginia was undefeated in 1988 and looked exactly like a national championship team. They held 8 of their 11 regular season opponents to under 20 points and scored at least 30 points in 10 of 11 games, including breaking 50 points five times.
The Mountaineers were led by redshirt-sophomore quarterback Major Harris, who was Vince Young before Vince Young. Harris had the Mountaineers playing for a national championship and then a shoulder injury on the third play of the Fiesta Bowl ended those dreams. This one haunts all Mountaineers fans with the dream of that elusive trophy.
Da’Sean Butler’s knee injury versus Duke in Final Four
The 2010 Mountaineers basketball team were the culmination of senior leadership and savvy freshman led by former Mountaineer Bob Huggins. Senior Da’Sean Butler helped the team to 31 wins, a school record. The Mountaineers failed to win the Big East conference in the regular season, but got hot at the right time and went on a season ending tear.
Following a loss to UConn Huskies in Hartford, the Mountaineers found their spark. The team beat Huggins’ old team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, then #19 Georgetown before ending the season with a victory over #9 Villanova Wildcats. The wins helped the Mountaineers gain the #3 seed in the Big East tournament, where the Mountaineers were pure magic. With wins over the aforementioned Bearcats, then the Fighting Irish led to a tournament finals matchup against the Georgetown Hoyas. With the game tied at 58, Butler hit a running floater with under 5 seconds left that lifted the Mountaineers to their only tournament championship under Huggins.
The conference tournament win boosted the Mountaineers to a 2-seed in their region. Butler kept the team going with wins in the opening round, Round of 32 and the Sweet 16 before a memorable upset of #1 Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight. The Mountaineers, in their first Final Four appearance since 1959, drew the Duke Blue Devils. With 9:03 in the second half, Butler went for a layup when his feet caught and he collided with a Duke player and tore his knee. The injury was the final knell in the coffin for the Mountaineers who were struggling with the Blue Devils and a tough end to the career of Da’Sean Butler.
Adam Bednarik injury opens the door for Pat White
While Harris’ and Butler’s injuries saw us lose a player, this last one jump started the career of another player. In 2005, Adam Bednarik and Pat White were stuck in a quarterback competition as head coach Rich Rodriguez tried to figure out who was best to lead his team after the departure of senior quarterback Rasheed Marshall in 2004. Bednarik was a more of a passing quarterback who could scramble while White was an electric running quarterback who could make throws.
Bednarik would start most games but was unable to best White. Against Louisville, Bednarik and the offense were held scoreless through the first half of the game. In the second half, down 24-7 with 11 minutes left in the game, Bednarik was injured on a 1st and 10 sack by Brandon Johnson. Enter in Pat White, who proceeded to lead the team to 17 unanswered points to tie the game at 24 at the end of regulation. What would follow would be one of the greatest overtime games in college football history, one that ended 46-44 for the Mountaineers.
The Bednarik injury coupled with the way the offense performed with White in the Louisville game, forced Rodriguez to use White exclusively. White’s electric ability and his scrambling helped West Virginia enjoy a golden renaissance where the Mountaineers won 42 games in four years, including three straight years of 11 wins.
West Virginia’s dominance during this time of college footballl coincided with college football realignment. The Mountaineers were victims of the first phase of the alignment when former Big East foes Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College jumped ship to the ACC. The Pat White years helped keep West Virginia relevant until the second phase when Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri and Colorado left the Big 12, allowing the Mountaineers to join their new home in the Big 12 and remain a “Power 5” conference, one that can compete for national championships.
Which injury is most significant for West Virginia
This poll is closed
Major Harris’ shoulder
Da’Sean Butler’s knee
Adam Bednarik’s knee
Most significant injury for #WVU?— West Virginia Take Me Home (@NiteStare) February 25, 2019