The countdown to the 2019 West Virginia football season has begun. In the days leading up to their August 31 opener against James Madison, we’re going back in time to revisit some of the greatest players, moments and memories in Mountaineer history.
Previous countdown moments: 100-91
No. 81: Darrell “Coast to Coast“ Miller, WVU wide receiver 1978-1982
A lot of change hit West Virginia football between the late 1970s and early 1980s. Not only would they bring on Michigan QB coach Don Nehlen to head the program, but they would also debut a state-of-the-art stadium and a sleek new logo on their helmets.
Darrell Miller, who played football at WVU from 1978 to 1982, was a part of all of that while leading the Mountaineer receiving corps. Most notably for Miller was the team’s turnaround on the field: from his first season to his last, the Mountaineers consistently improved, going from 2-9 to 9-3.
“Coast to Coast” Miller (as he was known) put his name in the history books in the opening game of his final season at no. 9 Oklahoma, when an unranked West Virginia squad marched into Norman and stole their first win of the season. Miller’s touchdown reception from Jeff Hostetler in the second quarter would put the Mountaineers up 20-14 before halftime. West Virginia would go on to win 41-27, capping off a 5-year turnaround and giving a new meaning to the nickname “Coast to Coast.”
No. 82: Anthony Becht, WVU tight end 1996-1999
West Virginia football has been known for their elite speedsters like Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, and sometimes that overshadows their pass-catching colleagues on the line.
Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing 265 pounds, Anthony Becht manned that post for four seasons between 1996 and 1999. The eastern Pennsylvania native was a major contributor on offense for all four seasons, capping his Mountaineer career with a 35-catch, 510-yard senior season in 1999.
Becht would be selected as the 27th overall pick to the New York Jets in 2000 and would go on to have a lengthy NFL career before retiring with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011.
No. 83: Rasheed Marshall’s 83-yard TD pass to Chris Henry vs. Rutgers (2003):
During the 2003 campaign, West Virginia’s home game against Rutgers marked a pivotal point in the season.
The Mountaineers entered the Oct. 11 Big East clash with a 1-4 overall record after losing three games in a row, most recently to No. 2 Miami. But WVU defeated Rutgers, 34-19, sparking a seven-game winning streak to conclude the regular season.
In that contest, quarterback Rasheed Marshall hit wide receiver Chris Henry for an 83-yard touchdown pass. Remarkably, that pass wasn’t the longest of the season for Marshall.
The following week against No. 3 Virginia Tech, Marshall threw a 93-yard touchdown pass to Travis Garvin, helping the Mountaineers secure a 28-7 upset victory for the Black Diamond Trophy. That pass stood as Marshall’s career-long.
He also threw an 84-yard completion in the 22-20 loss to the Hurricanes that season.
No. 84: The 1984 WVU Football team
During Don Nehlen’s fifth season at West Virginia, the Mountaineers went 8-4 in a season that culminated with a Bluebonnet Bowl title over current Big 12 foe TCU.
WVU earned a pair of trademark victories on the way to that bowl game by knocking off back-to-back nationally ranked opponents on Mountaineer Field.
First, Nehlen and the Mountaineers edged No. 4 Boston College 21-20 on Oct. 20. In the primetime game, which aired on ABC, WVU overcame a 20-6 halftime deficit to take down the Eagles and their future Heisman Trophy winner, Doug Flutie.
Some remember that win as among the greatest in Mountaineer history.
The following week, West Virginia defeated No. 19 Penn State, 17-14. The rivalry game between the Mountaineers and Nittany Lions was played in front of a crowd of nearly 65,000, the most-attended game that season.
West Virginia rose as high as No. 12 in the national polls that season, and then went on to thump TCU 31-14 in the Bluebonnet Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
No. 85: 85-yard punt return by Fulton Walker vs. Virginia Tech in 1979
Fulton Walker is one of the most prolific punt returners in the history of West Virginia University football.
On November 3, 1979, Walker had an 85-yard punt return, sparking WVU’s 34-23 over Virginia Tech in Mograntown.
Walker had an 88-yard return for a touchdown against Boston College on October 15, 1977, which is tied for the second-longest in school history.
Walker is fourth in the record books with 675 career punt return yards.
No. 86: Bob Dunlevy, wide receiver from 1963-1965
Long before high-octane Big 12 Mountaineer offenses produced names like Tavon Austin, Kevin White and David Sills, West Virginia football was still full of outstanding wide receivers like Bob Dunlevy.
While his numbers may not be as prolific as today’s wideouts, the 6′ 4″ Wheeling native was one of the top pass-catchers for the Mountaineers in the sixties, leading the team in 1965 with 480 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. He twice had a career-high 5 receptions in games that year, against William Mary and Pitt. His moment in history comes in 1964, however, when he caught the 50-yard touchdown to cap off a 15-point halftime comeback against Syracuse to earn a spot in that year’s Liberty Bowl (pictured above).
No. 87: Geno Smith’s 87-yard touchdown pass vs. Baylor in 2012
Do you remember the West Virginia-Baylor game from 2012? Yes, the track meet that was a football game with 133 total points scored between two nationally-ranked teams.
That was the game in which Geno Smith tied a conference-record eight touchdown passes and amassed 656 yards through the air. School, conference and FBS records were rewritten during this game on Mountaineer Field in 2012.
No. 88: Reggie Rembert, wide receiver from 1988-1989
We looked no further than No. 88 for West Virginia and JUCO transfer wide receiver Reggie Rembert. Current head coach at Marshall University Doc Holiday was Rembert’s position coach at WVU and he once reported that Rembert ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. He was fast and a favorite target of quarterback Major Harris.
Originally from Okeechobee, Florida, Rembert attended Independence Community College. In his senior year at WVU, he caught 47 catches for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns. His best game that season was again Pitt in the Backyard Brawl, when he caught five passes for 145 yards in the game.
Rembert was originally drafted by the New York Jets in the second round of 1990 NFL Draft, but could not come to terms with the Jets and his rights were traded to the Cincinnati Bengals, where he played for three seasons.
Some football analysts consider Reggie Rembert as one of the “all-time” recruits for the Mountaineers.
No. 89: Bernie Galiffa throws 89-yard touchdown pass vs. Duke in 1971
We had to do a little investigative reporting to secure No. 89 on the countdown. Referencing an article in the Observer-Reporter from 2015, we were able to tell Bernie Galiffa’s story for the countdown:
We have to go back to the 1960’s where the Donora High School sports programs were doing very well. Now part of the Ringgold School District, the “Dragons” were lead by quarterback Bernie Galiffa. In 1967, Galiffa passed for 1,873 yards and 22 touchdowns. Those numbers are better than some guy named Joe Namath – yep, that Joe!
Galiffa had no fewer than 125 scholarship offers and decided to attend West Virginia University and play for the Mountaineers. He would be coached by Jim Carlen and eventually by a new up and coming head coach, Bobby Bowden, in 1970.
Galiffa started for WVU in 1971 and 1972, helping the Mountaineers to records of 7-4 and 8-4. During the ’71 season, he threw an 89-yard touchdown pass to Chris Potts. It is the third-longest pass play in West Virginia history.
In his senior year Galiffa passed for 2,496 yards, which set the single-season record
that stood until Marc Bulger broke it in 1998.
In 1976 and ’77, Galiffa played for the semi-pro team the Ohio Valley Panthers after he turned down an opportunity to become a free-agent with the New York Giants.
No. 90: Natalie Tennant selected as Mountaineer in 1990
In 1990, Natalie Tennant became the first female Mountaineer Mascot selected to lead the cheers of all WVU fans, and she answered the call. Since 1934, 66 men and two women have worn the buckskins for West Virginia University
Tennant grew up near Morgantown in Marion County, where she attended North Marion High School. At North Marion, she got a practice run for her Mountaineer tenure as “Superdog,” her high school’s mascot. After she finished high school, she went on to West Virginia for five years. In her final year, she decided to make a run to become the Mountaineer Mascot. At the cheer-off for the position at a basketball game, the crowd was not in her favor, but she did not let that affect her.