It was one of those games that make the sport of college football what it is.
A regular season game, late in the year, everything to play for, two great teams, one of which would win.
West Virginia at Cincinnati, the Bearcats leading the Big East, hoping they can somehow sneak in the back door and play the National Championship game, the Mountaineers fully determined to put an end to those dreams.
It is early in the evening, the Mountaineers heading out of their locker room for pregame warm-ups. Chris Neild, their nose guard, looked off to one side.
That’s when he saw it.
“The National Championship trophy,” he said the other day, thinking back on the moment. “I don’t know how they got it there, but there it was, about 20 to 30 feet to the right. Cheerleaders were getting their picture taken.”
Right then something snapped in the emotional Neild.
When the team returned to the locker room, when they in the final moments preparing to hit the field, Neild spoke out before his defensive teammates.
“I don’t think I can tell you what I said,” Neild said. “That should stay in the locker room.”
Suffice it to say it was something more than “isn’t that a nice trophy out there?”
Chris Neild had become a leader as West Virginia went out and upset the Scarlet Knights, 24-21, with a brilliant defensive performance, the difference in the game being an interception return for a touchdown by safety Sidney Glover and a game-saving interception by linebacker J.T. Thomas.
o o o o o o
Leadership is what it is all about as this spring begins today for the West Virginia Mountaineers, going through an April 30 spring game. which is a Friday night.
They remain a young team, a talented team, but a team in search of themselves.