Countdown to Kickoff: Days 20-11

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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 11: Wide receiver Kevin White

Kevin White was the first of his siblings to suit up in the gold and blue in 2013. The oldest White brother played two seasons at WVU after transferring from Lackawanna College, the same route that would also lead his brothers to Morgantown in the coming years.

In 11 games as a junior, White tallied 35 receptions for 507 yards and 5 touchdowns. One year later, those stats doubled.

His senior campaign saw 109 catches for 1,447 yards and 10 trips to end zone through 13 contests. That year, White started the season with seven consecutive 100+ yards performances, including a career-high 216 vs. Maryland. 

His 1,954 career receiving yards ranks No. 12 in WVU program history.

Day 12: Wide receiver Gary Jennings

After just a handful of touchdowns through his first three seasons, Gary Jennings made a home in the end zone during his senior campaign. 

Jennings was on the receiving end of one of the biggest plays of the 2018 season. With 16 seconds left, in front of a sold out crowd in Austin, Jennings hauled in a 33 yard touchdown pass from Will Grier. He managed to keep a foot in bounds for the score, helping lift the Mountaineers 42-41 over the Longhorns.

It was no surprise his final game in  gold and blue was the best of his career. In the regular season finale, Jennings reeled in 7 catches for 225 yards and two touchdowns in the narrow loss to Oklahoma.

Jennings ranks No. 6 in WVU history in career receiving yards with 2,294 and No. 7 in career receptions with 68.

Day 13: Wide receiver David Sills

It only took two consecutive seasons for David Sills to earn his place in program history.

The two-time All-American wide receiver finished his career as Mountaineer with 132 catches for 2,097 and 35 trips to the end zone.

His career touchdowns rank No. 2 in program history, and 33 of them came over the past two years. He’s the only player in WVU history to string together back-to-back seasons with 15 or more touchdown receptions.

Day 14: David Long’s 14 solo tackles vs. Oklahoma State in 2017

It was a quiet start to 2017 for linebacker David Long. He missed the first month of the season as he was recovering from a knee injury he sustained during summer workouts.

Long had a combined 1.5 TFLs over his first three contests of the season before exploding vs. Oklahoma State.

Despite the 50-39 final score in favor of the No. 11 Cowboys, Long’s performance on that rainy day didn’t go unnoticed. He finished with 18 total tackles, including 14 solo stops. He also tallied a program-record 7 TFLs.

Day 15: Darryl Talley’s 15 tackles vs. Boston College in 1982

Darryl Talley, a 1982 consensus All-American, was one of the most prolific tacklers in West Virginia history. He had plenty of memorable performances from 1979-82, including his 15 tackles against Boston College in his final season.

On October 9, 1982, No. 16 WVU improved to 4-1 on the season as it defeated the No. 19 Eagles, 20-13.

Both teams could only manage field goals in the first half, leading to 6-3 halftime score in favor of the Mountaineers. After the break, Talley made his presence known.

The WVU linebacker pressured quarterback Doug Flutie on almost every play. He finished with 15 total tackles, an outing that earned him the honor of Sports Illustrated player of the week.

Day 16: QB Chris Gray

For most of his career, Chris Gray was second on the depth chart to one of the best quarterbacks in Mountaineer football history: Major Harris. But there were several times that Gray was called upon to call the signals for the Mountaineers.

Most notably was in his senior season of 1991, where get got the nod against Bowling Green in the second game of the season. Gray took the field, throwing for 175 yards and a touchdown en route to a 24-17 victory at home.

Day 17: A 17.0 TV rating for the 1989 Fiesta Bowl

West Virginia’s memorable 1988 campaign was capped off by the highest-rated bowl game of that season.

The Fiesta Bowl, which was played on Jan. 2, 1989 and aired on NBC, earned a 17.0 rating, meaning more than 15 million households viewed the game — roughly 17 percent of all TV homes in the U.S.

No other bowl game rated higher that season. The Rose Bowl, which was played on the same day and aired by ABC, scored a 10.8 rating.

Of course, the Mountaineers fell to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, 34-21.

Day 18: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin

One of West Virginia’s most notable political figures attended WVU in the 1960s on a football scholarship. 

After graduating from Farmington High School in 1965, Joe Manchin came to WVU and wore No. 18. 

His playing days were cut short, though, as he was limited by an injury. 

Manchin graduated from WVU in 1970, and would later become the governor of West Virginia in 2005. Then, in 2010, he won a special election to become a U.S. Senator, a seat he has held since. 

Day 19: The number of players who traveled to WVU’s first bowl game

Earlier in our Countdown to Kickoff series, we took you back to West Virginia’s first bowl appearance — a 21-13 victory over Gonzaga in the 1922 East-West Christmas Classic.

But did you know that only 19 players made the trip to California for the bowl?

West Virginia held off a late surge by Gonzaga to win by eight points on Christmas Day, completing a 10-win season for the team.

Day 20: Chris Haering’s 20 tackles vs. Rutgers on Nov. 11, 1989

West Virginia edged Rutgers, 21-20, in front of more than 61,000 fans on Nov. 11, 1989.

It was Chris Haering’s defensive efforts that helped pave the way for the No. 19 Mountaineers’ one-point victory. He finished with 20 total tackles, an even 10 between solo and assisted stops.

The linebacker also tallied a forced fumble and recovery in the win.

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