No. 21 Virginia Tech, No. 22 WVU Renew Rivalry Sunday - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

No. 21 Virginia Tech, No. 22 WVU Renew Rivalry Sunday

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Will Grier prepares for his WVU debut against Virginia Tech on Sept. 3. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle) Will Grier prepares for his WVU debut against Virginia Tech on Sept. 3. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle)

By Ryan Decker 

Few opponents were more linked to one another from the 1970’s through the mid-2000’s than West Virginia and Virginia Tech. 

After not playing one another since 2005 the two programs meet up on the gridiron once again this weekend. 

For the 11th straight time in the series, the two teams will meet with at least one being ranked – in this case, both are Top 25 teams – but for only the seventh time will the two teams battle on a neutral site. 

“The rivalry, getting it started back up we’re all excited about that,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday. “The fan bases are, the players are.”

The Rivalry 

West Virginia owns the historical advantage in the series 28-22-1. However, Virginia Tech has held onto the Black Diamond Trophy more times than not over the last 17 meetings, winning 12 of them. 

When the rivalry started in 1912, West Virginia University was 45 years young, but Virginia Tech was then known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Despite a lopsided victory by the Hokies in the first meeting, WVU won 11 of the first 18 matchups before the series became an every year tradition in 1973. 

The Mountaineers started by taking 12 of the next 16 games, most of which were extremely close, with an average margin of victory for the two teams just over four points. 

Starting in 1989, though, the Hokies had the stronghold on the rivalry until its stoppage in 2005. West Virginia will look to start a new trend Sunday.

Returning faces

“There is an expectation on how to play the game when these two teams play as far as a tough, hard-nosed, physical football game,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “And I don’t expect it to be any different this year.” 

Foster is in his 30th season as the DC at Virginia Tech and was a big part of helping the Hokies turn around its luck in the series. 

VT had one of the top defenses in all of college football last year, finishing inside the Top 15 in four defensive categories. Though Foster believes this year’s defensive unit could be one of the best he’s had. 

Tony Gibson, West Virginia’s defensive coordinator, also has coached in the series, one of the few on the Mountaineer coaching staff. 

Former legendary head coaches Don Nehlen and Frank Beamer will also be at the game as honorary captains. 

New faces

Jake Spavital has returned to WVU as offensive coordinator and will be calling plays to new starting quarterback Will Grier, the transfer from Florida of whom so much excitement surrounds in Morgantown.

“He’s ready to go. There’s a lot of talk about him and a lot of talk about (how) he get’s to play football again,” Holgorsen said. “I’m anxious to finally see him in a live setting to where he can kind of cut it loose a little bit.” 

Grier and Spavital are hoping to continue the offensive success of last season for a Mountaineer team that averaged over 480 yards of total offense in 2016. 

Aside from Grier, offensive weapons for the Mountaineers could be limited on the outside with really only David Sills and Gary Jennings highlighting in practice. 

In the backfield, though, the Mountaineers are deep.

“Just going off of (Crawford) with (Kennedy) McKoy, Tevin Bush, with (Alec) Sinkfield and don’t forget about (Martell) Pettaway,” Spavital said. “No one talks about Pettaway but Pettaway’s one of our top backs as well. You got about five guys that are going to moving in and out of different positions from receiver and in the backfield.” 

On the other sideline, Virginia Tech will be starting redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson, the first freshman QB to start a season-opener for the Hokies since Michael Vick in 1999.

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