By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
July 1, 2010
Eighty. That’s when old becomes really old, when speeding tickets can get pretty expensive and when football games are usually called off.
What makes West Virginia’s 80-7 victory over Rutgers on Nov. 3, 2001 so unforgettable was not just the 80 points the Mountaineers scored (the most by any team in college football that year), but also the fact that they actually quit trying to score. Rutgers just wouldn’t let them.
Eighty points is what college football fans were used to seeing Nebraska put on Minnesota - just because Nebraska could do it - or Oklahoma pounding neighbor Tulsa because Barry Switzer was, well, Barry Switzer. But West Virginia putting 80 on the board against Rutgers? The birthplace of college football? Come on.
I can still see the Newark Star Ledger’s Tom Lucci sitting in the front row of the press box, shaking his head in disbelief and crying out at least three different times, “Oh God, not another touchdown!” (Think Hindenburg - "Oh the humanity!")
Even though West Virginia was awful in 2001, going 2-0 against the MAC and 1-8 against the rest of its schedule (including a 17-14 loss to Temple), the trends actually pointed toward something like this. The last four times the Scarlet Knights came to Morgantown they gave up 62, 48, 59 and 58 points.
Afterward, some of the West Virginia players thought they had detected signs in prior games of the offensive fireworks that were to be displayed that sunny Saturday afternoon. If it wasn’t the 35-0 loss to Virginia Tech then perhaps it was Miami’s 45-3 ambush in the Orange Bowl? Talk about tea leaves.
“This didn’t start today,” were the postgame remarks of West Virginia safety Shawn Hackett, who outscored Rutgers himself by returning an interception and a fumble for touchdowns.
“I sensed something different after Miami,” added first-year Mountaineer coach Rich Rodriguez.
Something was different after Miami. The schedule lightened up.
West Virginia safety Rick Sherrod, the leader of WVU’s No. 1-ranked pass defense that also happened to be last in the country against the run, was shocked and surprised – not because of the score but because there was no reason to get yelled at.
“I don’t think I heard (Rodriguez) scream more than three times today,” explained Sherrod. “Other than that, he just kept quiet. That was my first time not hearing him scream that much since he came here – the first day he came here.”
The only time Rodriguez even had an excuse to yell came with 3:21 left in the game when Marcus Jones scored a three-yard touchdown. That made it 73-7.
But backup running back Quincy Wilson, mistakenly identified as Quincy Jones by WVU’s longtime PA man Frank Stevens (it was a long day for everyone), took Rodriguez’s mind off of losing the shutout by rumbling 60 yards for West Virginia’s 10th touchdown of the day.
Here is how bad things got for Rutgers. After Hackett’s 50-yard interception return made the score 58-0, the Mountaineers were assessed two personal foul penalties (one of them on Hackett for throwing the ball up into the stands), forcing Todd James to try a 50-yard extra point attempt.
Naturally he made it with plenty of room to spare.
“That was a first for me,” said James. “I don’t know how much it should count for, but I’ll just take what they gave me.”
When you lose a conference game by 73 points and you are required to explain it afterward, the easiest thing to do is to throw out a few clichés, which is exactly what first-year coach Greg Schiano chose to do.
“It was just one of those days,” Schiano said. “All the keys to victory are exactly what we didn’t do – ball security, not giving up turnovers. I can’t begin to count the amount of mistakes, and that is just fundamentals.”
Not quite Lou Saban's "They're killin' me out there, Whitey ... they're killin' me!"
By the way, the 80 points WVU put on the board are still the most ever scored at Mountaineer Field.
West Virginia defeats Rutgers 80-7 in 2001