The play clock was winding down and West Virginia quarterback Major Harris was confused. Was the play Coach Nehlen sent in 37 or 38?
One digit is the difference between the play going either to the right or left. As it turned out Harris was wrong - the team went to the left and Harris went to his right.
“I didn’t want to call a timeout and I was getting everybody ready and I forgot which way the play was going,” Harris recalled. “I knew it was an option. I just didn’t know which side we were running it to. To be honest, it was like a bootleg where the guys go one way and the quarterback goes the other.”
What Major didn't mention were the seven Penn State players he somehow avoided. The run was only 26 yards, but it had to be the prettiest 26-yard touchdown run in the history of college football.
“To this day it was one of the greatest runs I have ever seen in college football history,” said Mountaineer secondary coach Dave Lockwood. “I still tell people that Major was the best athlete I have ever been around from all of the places I have been. The only guy who would be in that category would be (New England Patriots running back) Laurence Maroney.”
“When stuff like that happens, you don’t have a chance,” said fullback Craig Taylor.
And on this day Penn State didn't.
Near the end of the half, Nehlen, surprised with his team’s huge lead and not wanting to push his luck, was content to simply run out the clock and go into the locker room up 34-8. So he called a draw play for Undra Johnson.
It wound up being a 55-yard touchdown. Those Nittany Lions in their black shoes just couldn’t keep up with Johnson.
“That was crazy because we were just trying to run out the clock,” Harris laughed. “For a half you couldn’t write a better script.”
Linebacker coach Steve Dunlap was purposely holding the elevator for the Penn State coaches at halftime so they could all ride down together.
“I was patting (Penn State defensive coordinator) Jerry Sandusky on the rear end going down the elevator saying, ‘Hang in there Jerry, you’ll be all right,’” Dunlap laughed. “That was fun.”
The final score: West Virginia 51, Penn State 30. It was one of the worst beatings of Joe Paterno’s coaching career. As had happened in 1984 when West Virginia beat Penn State for the first time in 28 years, Nehlen didn’t get the satisfaction of shaking Paterno’s hand at midfield after the game. Both coaches had to outrun the mob of students chasing them to the locker room.
WVU running back A.B. Brown, having started his college career at Pitt, saw the Penn State game from two different angles.
“I thought the Penn State game was a really big game because that was when we really found out how good we were,” he said.