History: WVU can win

With the odds makers listing Oklahoma as a 19-point favorite for Saturday’s 7 p.m. football game against West Virginia University, it’s appears the Mountaineers have little chance of starting off the season 2-0.

After all, Oklahoma pitched a shutout in its opening game, the Sooners are home for the second straight week while the Mountaineers are making their first road trip of the season and West Virginia had to come-from-behind in the second half on Saturday to defeat William & Mary, a FCS team that won just two games last year.

By any measure you use to compare the 2013 Sooners and Mountaineers, Oklahoma wins and more likely than not, wins big.

But die-hard Mountaineer fans always are looking for some reason to have hope their favorite team springs an upset.

They need look no further than the history books. There, they will find not one, but two times WVU stunned a heavily-favored Oklahoma team.

The first came on Sept. 11, 1982. West Virginia, coached by Don Nehlen, was opening its season against the No. 9 team in the nation. The Mountaineers were traveling to Norman, Okla., with a team led by a new quarterback, Jeff Hostetler, who had transferred from Penn State.

WVU’s previous visit to Oklahoma, in 1978, not only had resulted in a 52-10 Sooner victory, but Oklahoma star running back Billy Sims spent most of the second half signing autographs on the sidelines, since his services no longer were needed.

Would the 1982 game be any different? It appeared not. Indeed, Oklahoma scored the first two times it had the ball. It was 14-0 Sooners and the rout appeared to be on. Then, it happened. WVU started coming back. By halftime, it was 20-14 West Virginia.

By the time the final gun sounded, Hostetler had thrown four TD passes and WVU had stunned Oklahoma, 41-27. It was coach Nehlen’s signature victory at the time. Little did he or Hostetler know then that the quarterback eventually would marry the coach’s daughter.

Fast forward to Jan. 2, 2008. West Virginia, coming off the most stunning loss in Mountaineer history -a 13-9 setback to arch-rival Pittsburgh that kept WVU from playing for the national championship – was paired against No. 3 Oklahoma, an 8-point favorite.

The Mountaineers were going into the game having watched popular coach Rich Rodriguez leave for Michigan and long-time assistant Bill Stewart being asked to serve as interim coach for the bowl game.

Spirits at WVU were low. Plus, every other team that had gone into a bowl game that season with an interim coach had lost.

Somebody forgot to tell Stewart and West Virginia. Leading 6-3 in a game of field goals, WVU scored the game’s first touchdown on one of the most memorable plays in Mountaineer history -a 57-yard run by fullback Owen Schmitt. That’s the play on which Fox sports announcer Matt Vasgersian described Schmitt as “a runaway beer truck.”.

Runaway was an apt word for what was to follow. Quarterback Pat White hit Darius Reynaud with a 21-TD pass just before halftime to give the Mountaineers a 20-6 lead and all the momentum.

Oklahoma didn’t panic as the Sooners started off the second half with a field goal and a touchdown to make it 20-15. But a 17-yard TD run by Noel Devine and a 30-yard reverse by Reynaud gave the Mountaineers a 34-15 lead and started the party in the stands.

By the time the game was over, WVU not only had won, 48-28, but the Mountaineers had rushed for 349 yards. White had 150 of those while also throwing for 176 yards and two scores. He had outdueled vaunted Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.

Following the game, White and several other WVU players endorsed Stewart for the vacant head coaching position. By the next morning, they got their wish.

So before you go saying “No way” and write off WVU on Saturday, remember that West Virginia has shocked Oklahoma twice before. History has a way of repeating itself when you least expect it.

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com