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Chilly weather, leather-lunged crowd greeted Miami in 1993 showdown

By Bob Madison - For the Chronicle | Dec 18, 2020

Robert Walker's best season for the Mountaineers was in 1993. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — West Virginia was undefeated after eluding several upset bids from Big East teams. Miami had fallen only once and was still a much-noticed scourge on the college football radar screen.

It was on Nov. 20, 1993 the menacing Hurricanes trooped north to face West Virginia in Morgantown. After sketchy weather forecasts that had earlier included possible snow, the day dawned clear and had the predicted cold temperatures that were supposed to worry the team from balmy Coral Gables, Fla.

A 3 p.m. start time meant that most of the squabble would be played in the half-light of dusk and then that steely darkness of a northern West Virginia night.

The listed capacity at the Mountaineer Field facility on WVU’s West Campus was 63,000 in 1993. It wasn’t exactly a “House of Horrors” for opponents, but beating the Mountaineers there was never a soft or leisurely ride through the hills and valleys.

As much anticipated as any game in WVU football history at that time, people of all size, shape and rooting interest poured through the gates — many finally standing with craned necks and watching from angles never found before as the announced crowd swelled to 70,222. The throng was over 7,000 more than the concrete bowl was supposed to hold. To this December day, it was and is the largest crowd ever in Morgantown.

West Virginia stood at 9-0-0 and was ranked No. 9 in the land. The Hurricanes were 8-1-0 and held at No. 4 in the polls.

Darkness shrouded the skies west of the pressbox side when the Mountaineers led, 3-0, at halftime. Miami was well on its way toward losing three turnovers and recovering three of its own fumbles as the sun shone its last light on the spectacle.

As both defenses continue their hold on the struggle, West Virginia halfback Robert Walker scored on a 19-yard run that overcame Miami’s 14-10 lead. The now-glorious scoreboard glared with West Virginia ahead, 17-14.

Ahead by three points, West Virginia’s defense remained the same puzzle in the last minutes as it had been for most of the afternoon/night.

Miami didn’t score again and could show only 61 rushing yards when the final horn unleashed many thousands to rush on to the artificial playing surface and then tear down the goalposts, much the same as the fans did when the Mountaineers had edged Louisville earlier in the season.

The victory sent WVU into its season finale at Boston College the next weekend. Boston College had nicked Notre Dame, 41-39, on the same day WVU derailed Miami.

It was Notre Dame’s first loss of the year.

On Nov. 26, another snarling performance by the WVU defense was the gilded theme in another 17-14 Mountaineer success story, finishing off a 10-0 season.

Shunning an invitational to meet Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the Mountaineers instead took a spot in the Sugar Bowl because of a payout that was about $1.1 million higher in revenue.

With Notre Dame, Bobby Bowden’s Florida State and Nebraska all lobbying for help from pollsters to become the national champion, even West Virginia was alive for the title if all the complicated scenarios ended up covered in coal dust and hillbilly charm.

There was no more talk of a national championship when WVU lost in its Sugar Bowl skirmish against the fleeter Florida Gators.

Ask the crowd of 70,222 what was their consensus impression of the WVU vs. Miami match and many would say it was the greatest game in West Virginia University football history as they stroked the metal piece of goalpost they claimed on that cold, cold Saturday in 1993.