Unforgettable Games

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  • June 28, 2010 10:07 AM
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By Tony Caridi for MSNsportsNET.com
June 28, 2010

It’s hard to believe, but Mountaineer Field, now known as Milan Puskar Stadium, turns 30 years old this fall. There have been many wonderful - and yes, not so wonderful - moments that have taken place at the "new stadium" since it was first opened in 1980. This month, MSNsportsNET.com will count down the 30 most unforgettable moments in the stadium’s impressive history. We will also assemble a panel of experts to get their 30 most unforgettable moments, and then we will ask you to send in some of your memories.

To kick things off, we asked MSN play-by-play man Tony Caridi to give us his five most unforgettable moments. So without further adieu, here they are:

OCTOBER 20, 1984

I have a hard time remembering where I was last Thursday so why is it that I can remember the events of October 20th, 1984 like they happened four minutes ago?

Back then, the day began with our Sports Brunch talk show, which at the time aired from the restaurant of the Star City Holiday Inn. It was a late afternoon kickoff so it actually was a brunch. Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie popped into the restaurant while we we’re on the air to chat with his parents who were brunching. Flutie, who had reportedly taken at cheap shot at playing in Morgantown earlier in the week (he called some of the Mountaineer players ‘bush’ for some comments they had made about BC winning the Lambert Trophy in 1983), declined our invite to join us on the show.

As for the game, oh my what a game. The Eagles muted a rabid Mountaineer Field crowd with a scintillating first half that gave them a two-touchdown lead at intermission. Then something special happened. As only it can at Mountaineer Field, the sun began to set and nighttime arrived, which is almost always a bad thing for visiting teams.

Spurred by a defense which would allow just one third down conversion the entire game, and a running attack which was vintage Don Nehlen, the Mountaineers made magic.

The previously muted crowd erupted as if each had swallowed their own personal vuvuzuela . When Matt Smith and Fred Smalls recorded sacks of future Heisman winner Flutie, you couldn’t hear yourself think.

Flutie’s desperation drive to win the game was stopped. The Mountaineers had rallied for victory. BC would go on to record one of the most dramatic wins in college football history against Miami and win the Cotton Bowl to finish with the most wins in more than 40 years at Chestnut Hill.

However, the Eagles will never forget the unforgettable game of October 20, 1984 in Morgantown. Nor will Flutie, who went winless in four tries against the Mountaineers.

OCTOBER 29, 1988

Remember the NBA playoff game in which Michael Jordan was so hot that he just threw his hands on to his sides and rolled his eyes as if to say, “I have no idea why everything shot I take is going in?”

Collectively that was the story when West Virginia took out nearly three decades worth of frustration on Penn State 1988. Again, it was a late afternoon start and the undefeated Mountaineers were playing with the swagger of his Airness. You kind of got the idea that it was West Virginia’s day when quarterback Major Harris just happened to make the single greatest run in school history on a broken play. “The Play” was also game, set, and match for the visitors from Mount Nittany.

WVU scored early, scored often, and scored in about every way possible - and with such great ease.

In addition to Major’s march, Calvin Phillips hauled in a bomb with the balance of a ballerina for a touchdown, and Undra Johnson exploded for a 55-yard touchdown on a draw play, which was designed to run out the clock at halftime.

The Mountaineers did all the damage they would need in the first two quarters; the second half was very uneventful. However, it was truly one of the most unforgettable games I’ve ever witnessed at Mountaineer Field.

NOVEMBER 3, 2001

Keep in mind that the premise of this assignment, as issued by MSN web czar John Antonik, was to come up with my five most unforgettable games. He did not ask for the best games, but the most unforgettable.

Allow me to reacquaint you with the events of November 3, 2001, a game that was truly unforgettable in what became a very forgetful season. The Mountaineers would finish the campaign with a mind-numbing 3-8 record, however, for one afternoon the Mountaineers morphed into an offensive juggernaut that produced more records than Quincy Jones.

The game was supposed to be a showdown between two rookie coaches who excelled in opposing departments. Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was a defensive whiz kid who brought with him NFL experience. Conventional wisdom said Schiano would have an answer to slow down WVU’s then-revolutionary no-huddle power running attack. Of course, operating West Virginia’s offense was record-setting Clemson offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.

So much for conventional wisdom. The Mountaineers made the Scarlet Knights look like Ted Knight. West Virginia scored so often and so easy that it was like watching one of those far-fetched Disney movies when you lean over to your buddy and say, “That would never happen in real life.”

Uh, yeah it can.

Final score: West Virginia 80 Rutgers 7. Unforgettable.

OCTOBER 26, 1996

The quiet that accompanied the 66,948 departing spectators was surreal.

The undefeated and 12th rated West Virginia University Mountaineers suffered one of the most unforgettable and painful losses in program history. Don Nehlen’s squad had rendered the Hurricanes from the University of Miami helpless.

The ‘Canes failed to score an offensive touchdown and yet beat WVU 10-7, thanks to the most unforgettable blocked punt in stadium history. The block by the Canes Tremain Mack with 29 seconds to play was returned for the game winning touchdown.

What added to the misery of the block was that replays clearly showed an illegal forward handoff during the ensuing scramble for position. Had the proper call been made, West Virginia would have won even if the Hurricanes would have had possession. Miami’s offense wasn’t going to score that night if you left them on the field by themselves.

Instead, Miami rejoiced in celebration and another painful chapter of Big East Conference officiating ineptness was authored and deposited into the personal library of all Mountaineer football fans.

DECEMBER 2, 2007

Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth.

Ever have a dream that you picked every number correctly to win the 456 million dollar lottery grand prize, but forgot to buy the ticket? Welcome to the Backyard Brawl of 2007. Every star had fallen into place, every scenario had played out as if the Gold and Blue football gods had staged a successful coup of the BCS hierarchy.

Everything - and I mean everything - was laid out perfectly for the Mountaineers to win college football’s national championship. This was the year that WVU would run around and past the Ohio State Buckeyes to claim the school’s first-ever national championship.

And, then it happened.

On the 100th anniversary of the Backyard Brawl, West Virginia University suffered its most unforgettable and meaningful loss in program history. The Mountaineers, 28-point favorites, not only lost 13-9 to a four-win Pitt team, but also lost their chance to play for the big game.

Mountaineer nation exited the stadium in a mental numbness and anguish that had never been seen before, and hopefully, will never be experienced again.

With that horrible thought still sticking in your mind, look for the countdown to begin with No. 30 on Thursday, July 1.