By Dave Morrison
By the time the game officially ended, and the old tradition of the playing of “Country Roads” began with the stands basically empty, the newest tradition was nearly an afterthought.
But early in the day, before No. 24 West Virginia’s 34-13 season-opening, weather-impaired win over Marshall, the Mountaineers rolled out a “new” tradition.
The “Mountaineer Mantrip” was unveiled to much fanfare.
The brainchild of new coach Dana Holgorsen, the 300-yard walk through a sea of gold-clad fans into the stadium two hours before the game is a salute to the state’s coal background.
A mantrip is the vehicle miners use to get in and out of mines.
Fans loved the chance to see the players up close, as thousands lined the route to the stadium.
At the end of the walk, upon entering Milan Puskar Stadium, the players touched a piece of coal that was brought in from the Upper Big Branch mine in Whitesville, where 29 miners lost their lives in a tragic mining accident in April 2010.
Not only did the fans like it, the players did, too.
“I loved it,” linebacker Najee Goode said after the game. “That piece of coal we have out there? That’s what West Virginia is all about. But I’m not going to lie, it was hot. It was hot. It’s something new. though. and it’s one of the greatest traditions I’ve ever been involved with. I like it a lot.”
Quarterback Geno Smith concurred.
“It was an awesome experience,” Smith said. “It was incredibly loud. Fans were out there going crazy. It’s something that is new to us here at West Virginia. It’s something that I think should be part of the tradition because it gets us excited as players and gets us ready to go.”
The West Virginia Mountaineer gave the walk an authentic look, caring a miner’s lamp during the walk.
“I saw some of it and I thought it was great,” West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said.
And he gave Holgorsen the credit.
“It was (Holgorsen’s idea),” Luck said. “He’s spent some time with the coal mining people in the southern part of the state. I think it’s a great tradition, for the fans, the players, the coaches, the band and everyone involved.”