NFF Got This Year's Hall Class Right
For someone who has closely followed Mountaineer football now for more than 30 years, I don’t have any arguments with the choices the National Football Foundation made for this year’s class of College Football Hall of Fame inductees.
Three of the 12 players picked in this year’s group – NC State’s Ted Brown, Miami’s Vinny Testaverde and Nebraska’s Tommie Frazier – had terrific games against West Virginia, and I was a personal witness to two of them.
Back in 1986, when Testaverde was helping transform Miami into Quarterback U, I sat in the sun in the student section up near the top of Mountaineer Field to observe Vinny take a Ginsu knife to West Virginia’s secondary.
His stats weren’t overwhelming that afternoon (14 of 20 for 188 yards and three touchdowns) but keep in mind that he didn’t have to throw a single pass in the second half because the game was already decided by halftime.
A couple of specific things I recall about that game: one, Testaverde getting sacked by West Virginia’s Matt Smith on the second play of the game to put the Hurricanes in a third and very long situation and Vinny having no trouble converting it; two, the Miami offensive linemen making these unbelievably athletic, one-handed catches during pregame warm-ups; and, three, running back Melvin Bratton blowing his knee out following a long run and then blowing kisses to the crowd as medical personnel wheeled him off the field on a gurney.
Former WVU SID Joe Boczek once told me he remembered sitting in the defensive film room with Dennis Brown when Coach Don Nehlen walked in to get his defensive coordinator’s thoughts on how they could stop Testaverde and Miami’s high-powered attack.
“Denny, do you think we can beat them?” Nehlen finally asked.
“Sure, Don,” Brown replied, “… if your offense can get us 60.”
It turns out Brown was right: Brown’s defense managed to hold Miami to just 58 points that afternoon.
Frazier, too, was a phenomenal talent, the 1990s version of Pat White without the benefit of having a shotgun-spread offense to utilize. Frazier ran for 130 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 100 more and another score in leading the fourth-ranked Cornhuskers to a 31-0 emasculation of West Virginia in the 1994 Kickoff Classic at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J.
Just like Miami in 1986, Nebraska was an awesome football team with unbelievable players on both sides of the football and a dynamic quarterback who could make things happen from anywhere on the field.
More so than Frazier operating Nebraska’s option offense to perfection against West Virginia’s overmatched defense, my most vivid recollection of that game was the afternoon before following the team walkthrough when offensive captain Tom Robsock sat up in the stands with teammate Pete Tirado to go over all of the line calls for the next day. It was then that I realized that things were not going to turn out well for the good guys.
I’m a little too young to remember Ted Brown weaving his way through West Virginia’s defense, but looking back at the box scores it was clear that he had a pair of outstanding games against the Mountaineers as a freshman playing in the 1975 Peach Bowl and later as a senior at Carter-Finley Stadium for the Wolfpack in 1978.
Brown ran 21 times for 159 yards in NC State’s 13-10 loss to West Virginia in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, and later contributed 158 yards and three touchdowns in State’s 29-15 home win over the Mountaineers in 1978.
I do know that Brown wasn’t very big, listed at 5-feet-10 inches and weighing just 175 pounds, and he still remains the only player in ACC history to earn first team all-conference honors four consecutive years. Pretty good stuff.
Also inducted in this year’s class were two coaches, Colorado’s Bill McCartney and Wayne Hardin, the latter a long-time Mountaineer nemesis coaching the great Navy team of 1963 with quarterback Roger Staubach that routed West Virginia 51-7 at the old stadium and later guiding several outstanding Temple teams in the mid-1970s.
Among Hardin’s best Temple squads was his 1974 club that featured quarterback Steve Joachim, running back Henry Hynoski and defensive tackle Joe Klecko. Those three helped the Owls to an 8-2 record that season, including a 35-21 victory over West Virginia in Morgantown.
Hynoski ran for 128 yards and a touchdown against WVU, but it was the precision passing of Joachim that really did in the Mountaineers that afternoon. WVU that season was using a new cover-two defense in the secondary that was championed by new defensive backfield coach Alex Gibbs, and West Virginia simply could not defend the flat as Joachim completed 18 of 24 passes for 208 yards.
Hardin’s Temple teams also produced victories over West Virginia in 1972, 1978 and 1979.
Hardin’s last season with the Owls was 1982 when the Mountaineers defeated Temple, 20-17, at Veterans Stadium. In 13 seasons there, Hardin led the Owls to an 80-52-3 record – easily the most successful period in Temple football history.
Hardin had a 38-22-2 record at Navy.
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