Hoss Outduels Boomer

By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
July 26, 2000

MORGANTOWN, W.VA. (Sept. 18, 1982) – West Virginia proved two things in its 19-18 win over Maryland.

  West Virginia was able to hold down Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason in this 1982 victory. (WVU Sports Communications)

First, the Mountaineers proved they could overcome the euphoria of defeating a Top 10-ranked team on its home turf after its stunning win at Oklahoma. And second, West Virginia proved it could win a game with a vicious, unrelenting pass rush.

A week earlier, West Virginia upset No. 9-ranked Oklahoma, 41-27 at Norman. It was the most points ever scored against the Sooners in Oklahoma, and the eye-opening upset was a front-page feature on most of the nation’s leading newspapers.

"Tell people back home that there are three teams that play football in the East," cried WVU linebacker Dennis Fowlkes in the locker room after the Oklahoma upset. Fowlkes was insinuating that West Virginia was now in the same league with Pitt and Penn State.

To actually get there, West Virginia would have to defeat an improving Maryland team that featured a new coach in Bobby Ross and a talented quarterback in Boomer Esiason.

Mountaineer Coach Don Nehlen had to fight the growing excitement his football program had created.

West Virginia produced a surprising 9-3 football season in 1981 that included a remarkable, 26-6 Peach Bowl victory over nationally ranked Florida. That preceded the Oklahoma win.

Nehlen knew if West Virginia wasn’t on top of its game, Maryland would come into Morgantown and run all over his young football team.

"Our kids had a ton of distractions during the week," Nehlen admitted.

A week earlier, the Terrapins lost a 39-31 decision at Penn State. Esiason passed for 276 yards and two touchdowns against a top-notch Nittany Lion defense.

Nehlen also realized his own defense was still gaining confidence. At the time, West Virginia prescribed to the "bend-but-not-break" philosophy.

Though the Mountaineers completely shut down a good Florida team on a soggy track in the Peach Bowl to wind up the 1981 season, Nehlen understood that sooner or later his defense was going to have to stop a well-balanced team in perfect conditions to win a football game.

Maryland presented that opportunity on Saturday, Sept. 18 at Mountaineer Field.

The Terrapins got on the scoreboard first when West Virginia quarterback Jeff Hostetler was forced to ground the football in the end zone during a fierce Maryland pass rush.

The safety was the second miscue Maryland forced Hostetler to make. On West Virginia’s first possession, UM’s Wendell Jones picked off a Hostetler pass at midfield. WVU finally answered with 4:27 left in the first quarter when Paul Woodside nailed a 43-yard field goal.

It was the first of four Woodside field goals for the game.

"You see," reported Woodside of his amazing accuracy after the game, "I really can’t see that far. I’ll probably get glasses after the end of the season, but I didn’t want to make the change in August!"

Woodside added another 44-yarder with 6:30 left in the second quarter, but Maryland countered with a 10-yard TD pass from Esiason to split end Russell Davis to take a 9-6 halftime lead.

Esiason clicked on 11-of-18 passes for 94 yards by halftime, and running backs Vernon Carter and John Nash contributed 59 more on the ground.

West Virginia, meanwhile, could manage just 12 yards rushing against a stingy Maryland front wall. Hostetler did account for 150 through the air.

Woodside knotted the score at nine with a 41-yard field goal with 4:56 left in the third quarter, but Maryland regained the lead on a Jess Atkinson 49-yard FG. WVU finally found paydirt at the start of the fourth quarter.

Hostetler hit Rich Hollins on a beautiful 35-yard scoring strike that gave West Virginia the lead at 16-12.

Four minutes later, Woodside converted his fourth three-pointer from 20 yards out to expand the margin to 19-12.

"Woody is a beautiful kicker!" Nehlen exclaimed. "He kicked off through the end zone and split the uprights all day."

After the Woodside three-pointer, Maryland went to work. Taking the football on their own 25 with 7:20 left in the contest, the Terrapins drove the length of the field. Esiason masterfully blended the run with the pass. He hit two 14-yard passes to push the football near midfield.

A 28-yard strike to backup tight end Greg Hill positioned the football at the WVU two-yard line. Three plays later, freshman fullback Rick Badjanek crashed into the end zone from three yards out.

The 16-play sortie took nearly six minutes off the clock.

Trailing 19-18, Ross gambled for the win on the conversion attempt.

He instructed Esiason to run a play-action pass and look for one of his fleet receivers in the end zone.

West Virginia guessed right and blitzed linebackers Darryl Talley and Ed Hughes from the corners. Talley got his big paw in the face of Esiason, which caused him to throw high of his target out of the end zone.

"No hesitation at all, we were going for the win," remarked Ross after the game. "They were throwing the ball well and we felt we had to go for two points. We just had a mistake on the backside – one of our tight ends was out of position."

Rob Bennett recovered Maryland’s on-side kick attempt at midfield. WVU would need one first down to wrap up the game. On third and three at the Maryland 43, tailback Curlin Beck got the nose of the football to the 40 for the first down that sealed the win for West Virginia.

West Virginia improved to 2-0 and advanced to No. 14 in the national rankings. In a span of eight months, West Virginia had defeated Florida, Oklahoma and Maryland in succession.

Maryland wound up posting an 8-4 record that season before losing to Washington, 21-20 in the Aloha Bowl. West Virginia, meanwhile, won nine regular season games before losing to Florida State in the Gator Bowl.

Many point to West Virginia’s win over Oklahoma as the emergence of WVU’s growing football program.

Contemplating the game much later, Nehlen believed the win against Maryland in 1982 helped the Mountaineer football program grow up.

"A lot of folks will never know what a big win that one was," Nehlen told retired Charleston Daily Mail writer Bill Smith. "It takes a pretty confident and mature football team to defeat Oklahoma and Maryland in back-to-back games."

Scoring Summary

UM - Safety, Hostetler called for intentional grounding
WV - Woodside 43 FG
WV - Woodside 44 FG
UM - Davis 10 pass from Esiason (Atkinson kick)
WV - Woodside 41 FG
UM - Atkinson 49 FG
WV – Hollins 35 pass from Hostetler (Woodside kick)
WV – Woodside 20 FG
UM – Badjenek 3 run (Pass failed)

Statistical Summary

Rushing: Maryland - Carter 17-46, Nash 11-37, Badjanek 6-19, Esiason 7-minus 36, Total 41-66; West Virginia - Beck 7-35, Wolfley 3-11, Walczak 5-11, Zopp 4-6, Harvey 2-1, Hostetler 4-minus 18, Total 25-46.

Passing: Maryland - Esiason 24-40-2-217-1; West Virginia - Hostetler 19-37-1-285-1, White 0-1-0-0-0.

Receiving – Maryland: Davis 5-50, Tice 4-32, Carter 4-28, Hill 2-45, Nash 4-12, Emerson 2-20, Fazio 2-16, Seriber 1-14, Total 24-217; West Virginia – Miller 6-82, Raugh 5-49, Brown 3-75, Hollins 2-38, Mullen 2-38, Walczak 1-3, Total 19-285.

Attendance: 56,042