I would like to claim that living in Kentucky for 12 of the past 13 years introduced me to real Southeastern Conference football. But I don’t want you Alabama and Auburn fans to choke on that great barbeque and sweet tea.
While the Wildcats more than made up for their football shortcomings on the hardwood, I am ready for some SEC football … Crimson style!
Sorry Auburn fans, but I feel some kindred spirit toward Alabama. This West Virginia native has to pull for Nick Saban, who also hails from the Mountain State. Saban is from Carolina, W.Va., which is located a mere 20 miles west of Fairmont. I attended Fairmont State College in 1985.
There you have it; I proclaim myself an Alabama fan. But I will not be killing any trees anytime soon.
Of course, the Crimson Tide must take a back seat to my beloved Mountaineers. I wish we had joined the SEC rather than the Big 12. WVU held its own in recent years against some great SEC teams.
In 2009 we held a 21-10 advantage over Auburn at the end of the first quarter and was up 30-27 entering the fourth quarter. But the SEC defense showed its muscle late with an interception return for a touchdown that rallied the Tigers. But both teams combined for 909 yards of offense – WVU had 509.
And even though we lost last year 48-21 to the LSU Tigers in Morgantown, we were able to compile 533 yards and cut our deficit to only 6 points midway through the third quarter. But another interception return for a touchdown sparked the late-game route.
Our best showing against an SEC opponent came in the 2006 Sugar Bowl when Pat White, Steve Slaton and gang manhandled an overhyped Georgia Bulldog squad.
OK, “manhandled” may not be the correct term. At least that’s how I felt when we raced out to a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter on the SEC Champion Bulldogs’ home turf at the Georgia Dome. We nearly gave the game away, but a successful fake punt late in the game secured our 38-35 win.
The Mountaineers have had a knack in recent years of surprising the post-season prognosticators. Remember the emotional 48-28 rout of the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2008 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl? Everyone had to love Owen Schmitt and his helmet-to-noggin shenanigans.
By the way, Alabama fans, you are lucky former WVU coach Rich Rodrigues was not interested in your wooing back in 2008. After his failed attempt in Ann Arbor, he takes his spread offense to Arizona.
I hope he chokes in a dust storm.
Yes, I still taste those sour grapes after he allowed archrival Pitt to knock us out of an eventual national championship in 2008; not to mention those putrid all-mustard uniforms he introduced in Morgantown.
And, I still have a computer screensaver of a baby donned in WVU attire laughing at a crying baby in Clemson orange after we annihilated the “unbeatable” ACC powerhouse, 70-33, in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
Meanwhile, I will miss our annual matchup against an SEC opponent now that we joined the Big 12. But I have my football calendar marked for Saturday, Aug. 28, 2014. That is when West Virginia plays Alabama for the first time ever in the second game of the 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome.
Until then, Roll Tide!
Jack McNeely is Publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.