By Mickey Furfari
Times West Virginian
It is certainly understandable that third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen remains concerned that West Virginia University’s communication of signals be straightened out at the season’s halfway mark.
Such signals from him to the quarterback and to whoever else on the field in need are vital to any success this year’s Mountaineer team is to achieve.
But this was not a problem for West Virginia’s Golden Era successful football teams in 1952, ’53, ’54, and ’55.
The late Art “Pappy” Lewis was the veteran head coach, and Fred Wyant, who still resides in the Morgantown area (Star City), was the outstanding four-year starting quarterback.
And that young man, who’s now approaching the age of 80, was prepared well enough to call his own plays. He was coached to do that almost instantly by both Lewis and offensive coordinator Ed “Rooster” Shockey.
I interviewed Fred Wyant about this matter last week. Here’s much of what the well-known insurance and marketing businessman had to say:
“We were opening the 1952 season at home and Furman was leading 22-0 with about nine minutes left. Gerald McInerney and Ted Anderson were ahead of me along with another QB. So ‘Pappy’ sent me into the game.
“In our first series, we didn’t move the chains in three plays. I went over to the sideline, and Coach Lewis motioned to me that we should punt the ball. I always liked to follow directions since I was 12 years old. But I went into the huddle, turned around and said, ‘I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to kick the ball.’
“They didn’t want to punt either, so I threw a forward pass 60 yards in the air and (running back) Jack Stone caught it over the top of his head.
“That tied the school record set by the great Ira Rodgers for a touchdown, and then we scored again and we lost 22-14.”
While his teammates headed toward the locker room, Wyant walked toward the head coach. Instead of giving Wyant heck for not doing what he was told, Lewis said, “Boy, you’re going to be my quarterback from now on if you can follow directions.”
Wyant confirmed that he not only started every game after that, but he was allowed by Coach Lewis to call every play himself after that.
To enable him to do that, he met daily at noon with Shockey to discuss the defensive tendencies of the next opponent.
Wyant, who was a graduate of Weston High School, led his great teams to a four-year record of 30-4 as a starter. That remains the best mark by a quarterback, percentage-wise, in WVU’s 122-year football history.
Wyant was a team captain as a senior.
During his career, the Mountaineers posted three consecutive wins against Penn State, then a big rival annually. It’s a school record which may never be equaled.
In Wyant’s freshman season, he guided the 1952 team to a 16-0 upset of old rival Pitt. That was West Virginia’s first-ever triumph against a nationally ranked team.
“I played with some talented, smart guys,” Wyant said. “And we played both ways — defense and offense.
“Indeed, it was a wonderful era for WVU.”