During his Monday afternoon news conference, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy recalled the Cowboys’ 35-33 Christmas Day victory over West Virginia in the 1987 Sun Bowl.
Gundy quarterbacked a high-powered Oklahoma State offense that featured running back Thurman Thomas, wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes and an under-used backup running back named Barry Sanders.
Gundy completed 12-of-18 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown while also throwing a pair of interceptions. Thomas was the star of the game for the Cowboys, running for a team-high 157 yards and scoring four touchdowns. West Virginia running back A.B. Brown ran for 167 yards and quarterback Major Harris contributed an additional 103 on the ground as the Mountaineers rushing attack accumulated 331 yards.
West Virginia actually led 24-14 at halftime before Gundy engineered a pair of third-quarter touchdown drives to take control of the game.
What Gundy remembers most about that game was the frigid conditions that greeted the two teams that afternoon in El Paso, Texas.
“We practiced the day before in shorts, it was about 75 degrees, and we finished the game in a snowstorm,” he said. “I remember the very next year the same team we beat played for the national championship against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.”
He’s right. Don Nehlen’s 1988 Mountaineer team went through the regular season undefeated and untied behind the brilliant play of Harris, a Heisman Trophy finalist that year.
Gundy said it was clear on film that West Virginia was already becoming an outstanding football team by the time Oklahoma State faced them in 1987.
“They were 6-5 when we played them in the Sun Bowl and when we watched them on tape we knew they were really good,” he said. “They had a quarterback who was a good player and they had a wideout who was about 6-4 (Reggie Rembert) and back then, nobody had wideouts like that except for the one we had here (Dykes).
“And then they had two or three guys who played in the NFL off their defense (Renaldo Turnbull, Mike Fox and Bo Orlando). We knew they were really, really good, wondering how they were just 6-5.”
At the time, Gundy thought his team’s victory over West Virginia in the Sun Bowl was underappreciated by those who covered the game.
“We beat them and really didn’t get a lot of credit for beating them and the next year they played for the whole thing,” he concluded.Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History now available in bookstores. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.