WVU-Virginia Tech briefly renewing rivalry
HYATTSVILLE, Md. – As the football seasons roll off the calendar, it seems as if West Virginia and Virginia Tech have drifted away from each other.
The schools haven’t played since the 2005 season.
There is no recruiting war between the two schools. West Virginia harvests players from Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Hokies claim their players from North Carolina, Georgia and many in-state cities near the Atlantic Ocean and Washington, D.C.
The teams would not have met this season if not for the millions tossed at them by television. In fact, the game was originally scheduled for Saturday, but then the television moguls saw that Alabama was playing Florida State that night and moved the date to Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Something named the Black Diamond Trophy will go to the winner, as if coal is still the major driving factor in both jurisdictions.
Money and national attention are the two driving forces in this meeting.
Both teams have first-year starters at quarterback – transfer Will Grier at WVU and redshirt freshman Josh Jackson for the Hokies.
A clear difference between the teams can be seen in West Virginia’s mostly inexperienced defense and Virginia Tech’s unit that is coached by 30-year assistant Bud Foster, the architect of more blocked punts, field goals and extra points than anybody alive.
Justin Fuente is in his second year at Virginia Tech. He came from Memphis to ease in behind Frank Beamer. He’s said all the right things about his predecessor, and a 10-4 record and bowl win over Arkansas helped Blacksburg make him welcome.
West Virginia also won 10 games in 2016. And the Mountaineers also won their bowl game.
If head coach Dana Holgorsen has found enough quality offensive linemen, his team could make Foster’s night a little troublesome.
The Mountaineers have running back Justin Crawford as a useful tool. Wide receiver David Sills left once, but he is back and listed as a starter.
Historically, Virginia Tech’s special teams have won slews of games almost single-handily. On the other hand, West Virginia has fouled many a game with special teams gaffes.
After this opener, both sides glide into home games that are carded for wins. Teams are given buckets of money to come to both Morgantown and Blacksburg. There is no return game, and the getting-guaranteed-bucks teams are expected by the home side to lose.
After Sunday, these teams won’t see each other for some time.
And those people expecting a recruiting war between WVU and the Gobblers for athletes from Covington, Gretna and Wise in Virginia and Bluefield, Princeton, Montcalm and Bramwell in West Virginia better retreat back to the 1950s and 1960s when such player-chasing actually occurred once in a while.