No. 9 WVU may have found a new rival
MORGANTOWN — For more than 100 years — 104 to be exact — West Virginia University football fans needed to point to only one team, the University of Pittsburgh, to find their most bitter and hated rival.
Since the end of what was known as the “Backyard Brawl” when the Panthers elected to jump ship and leave the Big East and join the ACC and WVU’s decision to move on to the Big 12, fans, players and coaches have been searching for that team to replace Pitt as the Mountaineers’ No. 1 rival.
University of Texas head football coach Tom Herman took one huge step toward naming his Longhorns as the program “most hated in the Mountain State” when he said during his postgame press conference that WVU’s game-winning two-point conversion run by redshirt senior quarterback Will Grier should not have been allowed because he saw Grier’s holding the ball out in celebration as taunting.
Needless to say, twitter became filled with fans of the Longhorns and Mountaineers using more than a little bit of colorful language to describe the other’s head coach, players and fans.
Despite all the disagreement, No. 9 WVU’s biggest rival will be the team it will take on at noon on Saturday inside Milan Puskar Stadium — Texas Christian University.
“We have a quality opponent, unbelievable program, that we get to play on Saturday,” Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “The history with us and TCU is pretty good, obviously, with us coming in together at the same time and playing each other now for the seventh time. These have been great games.
“If you look at the history with us and them, there’s been a couple of overtime games, there’s been some last-second field goal games, they’ve been wars. Both programs, really, have pretty much the same tradition of being in the Group of Five discussion and winning a lot of football games in their respective conferences of the Mountain West and the Big East.
“Don’t forget, they joined the Big East for a couple of months and then went to the Big 12, and we followed their lead and went to the Big 12. There’s a lot of history between the two programs, and I have utmost respect for Gary Patterson, an elder statesman in our conference. He’s been there 18 years or so as the head coach, but he’s been there longer than that. He’s done as good of a job as anybody in college football over that span. Defensive-minded, there’s not a better defensive coordinator in the country than Gary. This year is no different when it comes to that side of the ball. They haven’t had the ball bounce their way, which happens periodically. It has happened to us, obviously, and it’s happened to them a couple of times this year. But it’s not like they don’t play anybody. You can win games when the ball doesn’t bounce your way that way, but in the Big 12, it’s a little harder. Looking at losses to Ohio State, Texas, Texas Tech, those guys are obviously good football teams. We know what we’re getting with TCU this weekend, and we’ll be ready to go.”
The game will again pit Grier and Company against one of the better defenses in the Big 12.
“They’re still first or second in near every defensive category that exists in the Big 12,” continued WVU’s coach. “They’re really good up front even though they’ve lost some guys due to injuries, whether it’s to the (defensive) line or safety or linebacker, they’re still replacing those guys with good, quality players. It’s the same scheme, same coaches, continuity. They’re doing a really good job of playing defense, and it’s always been hard to move the ball on them, it’s always been hard to scheme them up and play against them. They do a great job with their technique, whether it’s getting off blocks or rushing the passer or sound tackling. They’re honest in coverage, they’re just always as good as there is.”
Grier, who was named as a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Davey O’Brien Award, enters his next-to-last game in Morgantown putting up videogame-like numbers on the scoreboard.
The North Carolina native is completing nearly 70 percent (182-of-261) of his attempts for 2,618 yards and 28 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He will face a Horned Frogs’ secondary which has limited opposing QBs to a mere 190 yards per game and only 14 touchdowns. It is a matchup made for TV and fans will get a chance to watch all of the action on FS1.