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.
Day 1: Tavon Austin
With just one day to go, who else would be better to bring the football season excitement than Tavon Austin.
The electrifying running back and wideout gained 4,446 yards as a Mountaineer, and is still the program’s leading receiver. He exploded up draft boards after his senior season, which included a 426-yard marathon against Oklahoma. He was selected in 2013 by the Rams with the eighth pick, and currently plays for the Cowboys.
His highlight reel, which has garnered over 19 million views on YouTube, can truly tell his story better than his numbers:
Day 2: Dan Kendra
Frank Cignetti became West Virginia’s head coach after taking over for Bobby Bowden in 1976. His first quarterback would be Dan Kendra, a native of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Kendra called the signals for the Mountaineers from 1974-1978, tallying a total of 31 touchdowns in his career.
Two years after Kendra left West Virginia, Cignetti’s son and JMU’s current coach Curt Cignetti, would join the Mountaineers’ quarterback room behind Oliver Luck.
Day 3: Paul Woodside
Kicking is an underappreciated but important facet of football — and Paul Woodside did a whole lot of it.
Woodside was WVU’s kicker in the early 1980s, even at times handling the team’s punting duties as well. To this day, Woodside holds the program record for most career field goals made with 74. His longest would come in the 1984 match-up with Louisville, where he banged a 55-yarder to help the Mountaineers dominate the Cardinals 30-6.
The Virginia native was inducted to the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
Day 4: Wendell Smallwood
In his three years as a Mountaineer, Wendell Smallwood amassed 425 carries for 2,462 rushing yards (9th in program history) and 12 touchdowns.
The bulk of those stats came in his final season.
Smallwood rushed just 39 times for 221 yards as a freshman. As a sophomore, that increased to 148 rushes for 722 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
When his junior year rolled around, those numbers amounted to 238 carries for 1,519 yards and nine trips to the end zone as the Big 12’s leading rusher. He also caught 26 passes out of the backfield for 160 yards.
Smallwood also had 68 catches for 618 yards in his career.
Day 5: Pat White
Pat White is one of the most dominant and successful quarterbacks in WVU football history, and became one of the program’s icons during the 2000s.
After passing on a pro baseball contract to play football at WVU, White racked up more than 100 total touchdowns and 10,000 total yards of offense during an impressive four-year stint with the Mountaineers. He also became the first Division I quarterback to post a 4-0 record in bowl games, including victories in the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.
White was selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. He is now the quarterbacks coach at Alcorn State.
Day 6: WVU’s 6-1 record in 1898
West Virginia’s winningest season in the football program’s first decade came in 1898, when the team won six contests.
WVU defeated opponents such as Westminster, Marietta, Virginia, Ohio and Western University of Pennsylvania, which later became Pitt. In fact, that year marked the second regular season meeting between the two Backyard Brawl rivals.
WVU won four straight games to conclude the 1898 season to finish the campaign with a 6-1 record, which would stand as its best mark until a 7-4 season in 1902.
The WVU football media guide lists the 1898 team as “Champions of the South.”
Day 7: Quarterback Will Grier
West Virginia’s 2019 Heisman Trophy contender Will Grier left his mark on the program after two two years as a Mountaineer.
Perhaps the biggest moment of his collegiate career came during last season’s contest vs. Texas in Austin.
With 16 seconds left, Grier threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings in the back of the end zone, putting the Mountaineers down by one point. Grier scampered across the goal line untouched for the two-point conversion to seal the 42-41 victory over the then-No. 15 Longhorns.
In his final game as a Mountaineer, Grier impressed despite the outcome. He completed 32-of-49 attempts for 539 yards and four touchdowns in the 59-56 loss to Oklahoma.
He converted 516 of his 785 passing attempts for 7,354 yards (3rd best in school history), and 71 touchdowns (2nd best) in his two years behind center at WVU. He also put together a school-record 19 games with 300-plus passing yards.
Day 8: Danny Buggs
One of the most exciting Mountaineers to ever wear a uniform, Danny Buggs lit up Mountaineer Field in the early 1970s.
Along with Marshall Mills, Buggs was a dynamic receiver for West Virginia under coach Bobby Bowden. In total, he amassed 553 yards for the Mountaineers.
One of his career highlights was an 80-yard rush against Syracuse, which was featured on a previous edition of our #CountdownToKickoff!
Day 9: Major Harris
It’s quite simple — Major Harris is a Mountaineer football legend.
The College Football Hall of Fame enshrinee is a former All-American and twice finished in the top five in Heisman Trophy voting during his career in gold-and-blue.
Beyond those major accolades, Harris quarterbacked the Mountaineers during their memorable 1988 season. In his second season at WVU, Harris led the program to its first undefeated regular season and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl against top-ranked Notre Dame.
That season, Harris also produced one of the most memorable touchdown runs in program history.
Before his selection in the 1990 NFL Draft, Harris became the first Division I quarterback to pass for more than 5,000 yards and rush for more than 2,000 in a career.
Day 10: Steve Slaton
A Mountaineer who needs no introduction, Steve Slaton was one-half of the iconic “Nickel and Dime” duo with Pat White in the 2000s. Along with Owen Schmitt, this West Virginia backfield would terrorize BIG EAST defenses for years.
Slaton finished his career with 50 rushing touchdowns (still a program record) and 3,923 yards.
One of his most memorable performances would come in the 2006 Backyard Brawl, where he would tally 345 total yards of offense with 4 touchdowns.