Tony's Take: OSU, WVU Have a History
Saturday’s game with Oklahoma State will be the fifth all-time meeting between the two schools. That’s not a stat that makes you say wow, but it is when you consider that the first two meetings came in 1928 and 1929. What? Yeah, 1928 and 1929 which, at least in my mind, opens myriad questions.
The first being why in the heck did West Virginia and Oklahoma State (then known as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College or Oklahoma A&M) even think about playing a home-and-home series in the middle of the season in the 1920s?
How does that even happen? Just how many other colleges did the train pass along the way from Stillwater to Morgantown? Fine, you want to treat the boys to a road game, how about heading into Ohio for a date with Otterbein?
And, it’s not like the game was scheduled at the start or end of the year. No, the game was played smack dab in the middle of the season with both teams playing the week before and the week after their encounter.
All of this is being offered without even mentioning the fact that the 1929 game played in Stillwater just happened to take place less than two months after the start of a little event called The Great Depression. I’m not making this stuff up. On Sept. 4, 1929, stock prices in the United States began a precipitous fall. The world as we knew it was about to change forever.
Apparently the word never registered with the folks at Oklahoma State nor WVU because our beloved Mountaineers got on the choo-choo and headed to Stillwater for their Saturday, Oct. 26 date. For the record, West Virginia won the game 9-6. WVU’s three-point margin of victory, coincidentally (and perhaps eerily) is the same number of days that passed before one of our nation’s most historic dates: Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929, which is simply known as Black Tuesday - the day the stock market crashed, the day that the rich became poor and the poor became lost. It’s very likely that the Mountaineers were just getting back to West Virginia around that time. No road trip in school history will ever have the same historical significance.
The two teams would not meet again on a football field for 58 years. The Christmas Day encounter in the Sun Bowl in 1987 also had a very unique set of circumstances. WVU’s ‘87 team was a wonderful combination of youth and talent. Each week we would watch redshirt freshman Major Harris morph from raw talent into one of the college game’s must-see players. The Mountaineers ended the season with a date at undefeated and Sugar Bowl-bound Syracuse.
If West Virginia won, it had a bowl chance. If it lost the season was over. Well, WVU lost in one of the most incredible games I’ve ever seen. But a loss is a loss.
The next morning Don Nehlen was cleaning out his garage when athletic director Fred Schaus drove up to tell him the news. Ohio State had declined a Sun Bowl bid because they had fired Earle Bruce, so bowl officials turned to Major Harris and WVU. The answer from Schaus was yes. After a beautiful week in El Paso, the weather exploded. Snow covered the field to the point where you couldn’t see a piece of turf. The Cowboys held off a WVU two-point conversion to secure a 35-33 victory.
Oklahoma State’s roster included future NFL greats Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders. Receiver Hart Lee Dykes would also go on to play in the NFL and their quarterback was none other than ‘I’m a man; I’m 40’ Mike Gundy.
It truly was a crazy way to end a season, but perhaps only fitting considering the scheduling history of WVU and Oklahoma State.