Sunday, February 14, 2010

#9) “They’re the Best Team We’ve Played:” West Virginia-34 Auburn-17

Oct. 23, 2008

Recap – West Virginia overcame a terribly slow start to come back and soundly dominate the Auburn Tigers from the mighty Southeastern Conference. The game started out poorly as a Pat White interception ended a promising first drive. Early mistakes allowed Auburn a 17-3 lead in the second quarter, but the Mountaineers didn’t panic and cut the lead to 17-10 before halftime on a White TD pass to Alric Arnett. Pat McAffee tacked on a field goal early in the third and, after a defensive stand, WVU drove down the field to the 2 yard line where White found Dorrell Jalloh wide open in the corner of the end zone, opening up what would quickly become a WVU rout. Noel Devine torched the Tiger defenders for 207 yards, including a 36 yard TD where he all but walked the last 10 yards into the endzone. Jalloh scored again in the 4th after catching a short toss from White and juking, spinning, and leaping for a ridiculous 32 yard TD.

Impact on Season – The start of the 2008 campaign was nothing short of disaster for the Mountaineers. A lackluster performance against 1-AA opponent Villanova followed by back-to-back embarrassing losses to East Carolina and Colorado had Mountaineer fans in panic mode, calling for Bill Stewart’s head only four games into his head coaching stint at West Virginia. Although the team came into this game with a 4-2 record, the wins were against Nova, Marshall, Rutgers, and Syracuse. WVU had yet to beat a quality team and, although Auburn would go on to have a down year, they still carried the weight of their program and the banner of the Southeastern Conference to Morgantown that night. It gave WVU a chance to redeem their season by beating a real opponent on national t.v., and the Mountaineers seized the opportunity and did it in a big way. As this game ended, one could hear a sigh of relief across the entire state as Mountaineer fans thought “this is how we are supposed to play.”

Impact on Program – From 2005-2007, the Mountaineers were a legitimate top 10 program and BCS contender. The poor start to ’08 threatened to undo all that in one fell swoop. This win stopped the bleeding and gave West Virginia the momentum it needed to put together a respectable top 25 season and take some pressure of first year head coach Bill Stewart.

Memorable Quote – “They are the best team we have played all year.” – Tommy Tuberville, Auburn Head Coach 2008

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