MORGANTOWN — oooooo
McKillop planned to return to West Virginia for the Kansas State game.
By this time the family knew something about their daughter’s boyfriend. Let’s just say that ...
Well, this is the way that went:
“I told my mom that Scott was coming down, and she said, ‘I’m not giving him my tickets!’” Statler recalled.
“But, Mom, I really like him,” she persisted.
“He’s not getting my tickets,” her mother said
That is the type of bleed blue and old gold family this is.
“My mom finally did cave and let Scott have a ticket to come to the game with us, but the people who sit with us and have sat with us for years are people we have a relationship with, and they were hesitant,” Lauren said.
And don’t think even though she dates McKillop that she’s given up those WVU roots.
“I just couldn’t bring myself to go up to a Pitt game,” she said.
“I never met anyone who grew up in a family like this,” McKillop said.
McKillop is from Export, Pa. It’s taking some adjustment in terms of her brother, her mother, her father. They are such West Virginia fans.
“Where I’m from, there’s so much, so many professional teams, but in West Virginia the school team is all there is. I still catch myself not understanding it because, not to make fun of the state, but West Virginia does not have a professional team. WVU is their major league baseball team, their NFL team, their NHL team.”
And they rally around those teams as nowhere else.
“The only way I can reference that is the passion the fans back home have for the Steelers. Not that it gets annoying, but I can’t understand how, if the Steelers lose, the people the next few days are so down. I’ve seen brothers go after each other after they lose. I can’t understand it.”
This passion for West Virginia begins early and grows with each fan.
“My dad grew up in Blacksville and my mom is from Fairmont,” Statler explained. “They met at a WVU basketball game in ’84. We always came up here and made a weekend of it. We had an RV pass. We’d come up and play.”
Her brother earned a scholarship to play basketball at Fairmont State, and, of course, over it all is the shadow of Ben Statler and his love for his university.
When he made his first donation, Lauren got a job working at the WVU Alumni Association.
“I became really close with the people there and I went to the Texas game with them this year,” she said. “Within the last couple of years I’ve gotten closer to the university. I’ve been coming here my whole life, but being with the alumni association and seeing other aspects of the university has made it that much better.
“Seeing all the chapters throughout the country and seeing how many people love this university just as much as I do has been great for me.”
Of course, the situation means there’s a lot of ribbing going on.
“We go back and forth about West Virginia and Pitt, but her one comeback is, ‘But you still come down here to see me.’ And I tell her, ‘I’d go to Happy Valley if you happened to be there,’” McKillop said.
“It’s like trying to get someone to change political views,” Statler said. “We can talk until we’re blue in the face and we’re not going to get the other one to change.”
And, in the end, McKillop believes he has the final comeback.
“13-9,” he said, referring to the final score of the Pitt game.
Ah, that Pitt game. What happened, everyone in West Virginia has wondered all these years. Certainly history was changed. WVU had no shot at the national title; Rich Rodriguez resigned; the team rallied together behind Bill Stewart and beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. But how did WVU lose that game?
“In that article with that famous quote, I let another cat out of the bag,” McKillop said. “We only ran one defense the entire game.”
That was all they needed.
“Paul Rhoads, who’s at Iowa State now, I’d look at him and he kept giving me the same sign. The only check we had was on where the back lined up. Any time Steve Slaton or Noel Devine switched sides, we’d slide our defense,” McKillop explained.
“We knew exactly what they were trying to do and how they were trying to play us.”
And West Virginia changed nothing.
McKillop admits that his team went into the game thinking it wouldn’t win, partly because of a previous experience against the Mountaineers.
“I played in that freezing cold game when H.B. Blades was hurt the first play of the game. I was a redshirt freshman, just happy to be in college, happy to have a scholarship, trying to stay warm. I had gloves on,” he said.
“I didn’t know which way was left, which way was right. I think that was the game where Pat White and Slaton each had 200 yards rushing and Pat White also passed for 200 yards. That was the first time I’d ever played.”
And after the game? A Pittsburgh reporter asked him about how good White and Slaton were.
“I don’t know. I didn’t get close enough,” he answered.
“I was so embarrassed they actually put that quote in the paper,” he said. “You know, I’ve never watched the game film of that.”