Oh, those old rivalries.
West Virginia has some great ones in its rearview. Virginia Tech, Louisville, Syracuse, that certain program 70-odd miles to the north and, of course, Maryland- each of them holds significant station in the annals of Mountaineer football. There's never been any love lost between the Terrapins and old gold and blue and, given that the two programs share a border, that vitriol runs a little deeper.
So it was back in 2014, on a chilly, misty Saturday that the Clint Trickett-helmed Mountaineers rolled into College Park to take on Stefon Diggs and CJ Brown.
Receiver Kevin White and Trickett had already made somewhat of a statement a couple of weeks prior against a loaded Alabama team and, along with human jet Mario Alford and bruiser Rushell Shell, were looking like an offensive unit with legitimate teeth. Don't forget: a year prior, Maryland played West Virginia at a "neutral site" game (M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, can-kicking distance from Maryland's campus) and embarrassed the Mountaineers to the tune of 37-0. That team, featuring the ghost of one-time prized recruit Ford Childress, produced a laughable 175 total yards. This wasn't merely a non-conference game between old foes, this was West Virginia out for blood.
What resulted was a melee of the biggest Big 12 proportions. Trickett, who transferred out of Florida State to build his own spotlight as a power 5 starter, played out of his mind en route to tallying 511 yards on 37 of 49 passing for four scores. The WV native was in "big-play" mode as he burned the Maryland secondary on multiple long balls to Alford as well as shorter throws, be it screens or check-downs, that turned into sizable gains. Almost none of it ever happened, though, after a goal line scramble to the left pylon (sounds familiar) left Trickett motionless on the ground for several long seconds. There's something to be said for "rubbing some dirt on it" and it was magic dirt, at that.
Then there's White. The nation took notice after he looked like an All-American against Alabama two weeks prior and he didn't miss a beat as he ripped off several grown man plays against the Terrapins including a video game-like score on a tunnel screen at the 11:51 mark in the second quarter. Call it a perfect play if you must - and you must - because it was a perfect amalgamation of play-calling, execution and simply super human speed. It was 44 of the best yards White ran during his Biletnikoff finalist senior year with the Mountaineers and offers a painful reminder of what his pro career should have resembled. His 216 yards on 13 receptions marks possibly the finest day he had at the college level and stands as a jaw-dropping performance to this day.
Of course, it wouldn't be a rivalry game without nerves being wracked. Just as I remarked a few days ago regarding its 2010 OT thriller against Marshall, West Virginia didn't just skate to a victory in College Park. Credit Stefon Diggs, now an established name in the NFL, to keep the game alive for Maryland by going for 127 yards on only five receptions, capitalized by a 77-yard sprint-and-score that had the Mountaineers secondary looking around in frustration. Throw in a Mario Alford fumble in the first quarter and a disastrous muffed punt return on the part of Jordan "Squirt" Thompson just before halftime and Maryland had all the juice it needed to make what looked like a blowout into another oxygen-sucker for the gold and blue faithful.
In fact, it would come down to a last second walk-off field goal by Josh Lambert to secure West Virginia's revenge outing and leave the national beltway with a win. Too close for comfort by any stretch.
The narrow escape in College Park would catapult West Virginia to a hot streak as Dana Holgorsen and his guys would go on to win four of their next five, including a convincing 41-27 upset over then fourth-ranked Baylor. I won't go into specific details about what occurred after that run, only that Clint Trickett's playing career came to an abrupt end and, with it, West Virginia's hopes for a possible top-10 finish and a NY6 bowl. It stung then and it stings now and, as far as seasons go, stands as a monument to missed opportunities.
If you're looking to settle down to a stress sandwich topped with a healthy slice of besting an old rival, though, look no further.