The countdown to the 2019 West Virginia football season has begun. In the days leading up to their Aug. 31 opener against James Madison, we’re going back in time to revisit some of the greatest players, moments and memories in Mountaineer history.
No. 41: Eric Wicks, safety 2003-2007
While an explosive Pat White-led offense was putting points up week in and week out, Eric Wicks and the WVU defense were making plays to ensure victories.
Going into his 2006 junior season, Wicks was already considered one of the top safeties in college football. He would back that notion up with 3 picks and 73 tackles.
He would again be highly touted the next season. In 2007, Wicks would again earn a trio of interceptions en route to his team’s Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma.
No. 42: Ira Errett Rodgers’s 42 points scored in 1916
Considered one of West Virginia’s best athletes of the 20th century, Ira Errett Rodgers was a jack of all trades. Not only was he a three-sport athlete at West Virginia University, but he forwent a professional athletic career to stay in Morgantown to coach the Mountaineers.
Even just within football, “Rat” Rodgers wore several hats, and was successful with each. On the field, he played quarterback, fullback, and he kicked field goals, and in 1916, he scored a total of 42 points.
That wasn’t even close to his career-high total, however. In his career he would amass 304 points for the Mountaineers, with a career-high 135 scored in his 1919 senior season.
Rodgers would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1957, and then into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.
No. 43: Oliver Luck’s 43 career touchdown passes
Now the commissioner of the XFL, Oliver Luck started his career at West Virginia in 1978. That season, the Mountaineers just won two games over Richmond and Virginia, but Luck was mostly on the sideline.
He would become the top quarterback for WVU the following season and by his senior year, he would have helped the Mountaineers to full turnaround. In 1981, Luck would help the Mountaineers to a 9-2 record and a Peach Bowl victory over Florida. In that time, he would also throw 43 touchdowns.
In the decades after, Luck would return to Morgantown to act as the school’s athletic director and then move on to the XFL.
No. 44: School-record 44 touchdowns responsible for by Geno Smith in 2012
Geno Smith is regarded as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Mountaineer history, a title which his numbers back up.
In 2012, the West Virginia star was responsible for a whopping 44 touchdowns, a school record to this day. 42 of those were by way of his arm with the help of guys like Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, while the remaining two he finished off with his feet.
No. 45: 45 National TV appearances in the Big East era
It may be fun to play in the Big 12 nowadays, but who doesn’t look back on the Big East with some nostalgia? With rivalries with Syracuse, Virginia Tech and others (are we forgetting someone?), Big East competition was fierce year in and year out.
During the 21-year Big East tenure for WVU, the Mountaineers were routinely in the BCS Bowl picture, meaning they were on national TV — a lot. In fact, during this time, West Virginia was broadcast nationally a total of 45 times.
No. 46: Highest punting average (46.2) by Todd Sauerbrun, 1991-1994
West Virginia punter Todd Sauerbrun was an integral part of the Mountaineers’ special teams personnel in the 1990s. His ability to flip the field aided Mountaineer defenses while stretching it out for the opposition.
Sauerbrun is one of the most successful punters in program history. His 46.2 yards per punt is the highest among all Mountaineer punters, and he holds the third-highest punt yard total with 8,181.
No. 47: Reed Williams, linebacker 2005-2009
A native of Moorefield, WV, Reed Williams was the centerpiece of the West Virginia defense for much of the late 2000s.
Williams is most noted for his performance in the historic 2008 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma, in which the Mountaineers upset the Sooners, 48-28. He would play well enough in that contest to earn himself the bowl’s Defensive MVP award opposite Pat White, who would earn the offensive MVP.
He would finish his career as a star off the field as well, as he was named the 2010 BIG EAST Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
No. 48: Willie Drewrey, wide receiver 1981-1984
The Mountaineers were a threat whenever they put the ball in Willie Drewrey’s hands.
Not only was Drewrey one of the program’s top receivers for multiple years of his career, but he was also one of the top special teams weapons in the country. His three career punt return touchdowns still remain tied for second in WVU football history, and no other Mountaineer since has been able to match that number since he departed from Morgantown in 1985.
Drewrey went on to have a nine-year NFL career, competing for both the Houston Oilers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He retired as an Oiler, the team he started with, in 1993.
No. 49: WVU defeats Texas Mines 21-12 in the 1949 Sun Bowl
Dudley DeGroot made an immediate impact on West Virginia football in his debut 1948 season as the Mountaineers’ head coach. Despite dropping two consecutive rivalry games on the road to Pitt and Penn State early on, DeGroot’s squad were able to put together a 9-3 record while outscoring opponents by 257-140. In fact, with the exception of their 37-7 loss to Pitt, the Mountaineers didn’t allow more than 16 points in any other game that year.
Their success in the regular season earned them a bid to that season’s Sun Bowl, where they defeated Texas School of Mines (now UTEP). Even though both teams offensive outputs were fairly even (West Virginia had the slight edge, 305 yards to 302) Texas Mines was unable to successfully keep possession of the ball, losing 4 fumbles. The Mountaineers went on to be victorious, 21-12.
No. 50: Mike Molina’s 50-yard field goal against Baylor, 2016
West Virginia football had one of the best seasons in recent memory in 2016, notching 10 victories and hovering near the top 10 rankings for the second half of the season. In order to get to that point, though, the Mountaineers had to go through Baylor.
Early in the matchup, Mike Molina set up from 50 yards and converted to put the first score on the board. This field goal would prove to be the difference, as the Mountaineers defeated the Bears 27-24 to improve to 10-2.