The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

July 4, 2013

WVU, VT to renew football series

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —  “It just made sense.”

That was the sentiment of both WVU athletic director Oliver Luck and Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer upon announcing the renewal of  a football series between the two schools, who will once again battle for the Black Diamond Trophy.

It’s going to take some time for the two old rivals to meet again — the  first game will be played in Morgantown on Sept. 18, 2021 and the return game will be played in Blacksburg, Va., on Sept. 24, 2022 — but both representatives are looking forward to renewing the series, which WVU leads 28-22-1.

“It’s down the road a little bit, but it’s the first time they could squeeze us into their schedule,” said Luck, who played in the series four times, splitting those four meetings from 1978 through 1981. “But it becomes more important given the geography of the Big 12. Getting a school like Virginia Tech means a lot.”

“It’s two great universities that have had some great competition,” agreed Beamer, who’s 12-7 against the Mountaineers. “We’ve always had great respect for them, and I think they feel the same way about us. Where we’re located, it’s the right thing to do. We’ll take fans to Morgantown, and they’ll bring fans to Blacksburg.”

 The schools played every year from 1973 through 2005, 13 of those meetings as Big East Conference foes from 1991 through 2003, but the series stopped after back-to-back Hokie wins in 2004 and 2005 as Virginia Tech joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.

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Luck didn’t play against Virginia Tech in 1978 — he broke his collar bone during his freshman season — but he threw for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and ran for 54 yards and another score, to lead WVU to a 34-23 victory over the Hokies his sophomore season.

The next season, Luck and the Mountaineers lost 34-11 in Blacksburg during Don Nehlen’s first campaign on the WVU sidelines, but WVU found revenge the next season, winning 27-6 behind 265 Luck passing yards and three touchdown throws.

“They weren’t quite the power that they became under Beamer, but we weren’t very good either,” said Luck, who explained Tuesday, when meeting Beamer at The Greenbrier, he has great memories of those matchups. “So we were two pretty evenly-matched teams, and they were dogfights. I remember Lane Stadium being a tough place to play.”

Beamer has coached against the Mountaineers so many times the games all  run together, but he vividly remembers the 1999 contest when Michael Vick led the No. 3 Hokies from a 20-19 deficit in the final minutes and Shayne Graham kicked a game-winning field goal to help keep Virginia Tech undefeated. The Hokies went on to play Florida State for the national championship.

“I always tell people you have to be good, but you have to have a lot of luck, too,” said Beamer. “We had a lot of luck that night to beat West Virginia.”

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One of Rich Rodriguez’s first big wins as the WVU coach came in his second season in 2002 when the Mountaineers upset the No. 13 Hokies 21-18 in Blacksburg on a Thursday night ESPN game. WVU won again the next year, beating No. 3 Virginia Tech 28-7 in front of a packed house for a night game at Mountaineer Field, the highest-ranked team a Mountaineer squad had beaten.

The final meeting was a 34-17 Hokie win in Morgantown in 2005, before Pat White and Steve Slaton became regular starters on that WVU team. It was the only game the Mountaineers lost that season on their way to a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia.

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Luck admitted that although there are many positives about WVU’s new home in the Big 12, losing some regional rivalries is one of the negative side effects of the recent trend of conference expansion.

“It’s happening to everybody,” said Luck. “Texas is not playing Texas A&M, and for somebody that lives in Texas, that’s blasphemy. Kansas doesn’t play Missouri anymore. But eventually some of those games will start coming back on the schedule.”

That, Luck hopes, includes the Backyard Brawl between WVU and Pitt.

“We’ve talked to Pitt, but they’ve got a lot going on, because they’re trying to get Penn State back on their schedule,” said the former Mountaineer quarterback. “I think they have, so they’re trying to figure  out when they can squeeze us in. Their AD and I just talked last week, so we’re trying to get that set up. It’s all about dates.

“I think it will get done, but it’s all a matter of when.”

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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