The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 18, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: ’Bama game comes at a perfect time



With WVU’s recruiting at its apex coming off a 70-33 trouncing of Clemson in the Orange Bowl in January and with the move into the Big 12 Conference making Morgantown an even more attractive destination for a high school athlete than it has ever been, this game shapes up as anything but WVU serving as a sacrificial lamb to the Gods of Alabama.
As something of a late-comer to West Virginia, not arriving in the state until completing a full career as a big-city baseball writer had played out its course, I learned up close and personal how special a WVU opener can be.
My first came at old Pitt Stadium in 1996, and it set a standard for openers that was difficult to top, WVU shutting out a dismal edition of the Panthers in the collegiate debut of running back Amos Zereoue, who took his first carry more than 60 yards into the end zone. As it was, the only thing that slowed him down for the rest of his career was a bad case of turf toe in his final season before he left to begin a career as a Pittsburgh Steeler.
Two years later there was an opener that carried almost as much hype as this Alabama opener will, for Ohio State was coming to Morgantown, and the Mountaineers were dreaming of a national championship that season.
WVU was No. 10 on that opening day, a nationally televised game that began with a coin flip that featured Hall of Famers from each school, the Mountaineers’ Sam Huff and the Buckeyes’ two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.
It was a game WVU was to lose despite Zereoue becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher, but it showed just what opening day is supposed to be … a festive, electric time when football is renewed between two good teams and a crowd that is charged with emotion.

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