Connecticut was in Morgantown and the Mountaineers found themselves in a terribly difficult position. Jaspar Howard, the popular Connecticut safety, had beet shot and killed following the Huskies previous game.
The nation mourned Howard. The Connecticut team was inspired to win a game to honor him.
And West Virginia was sort of a national villain, the team standing in the way of winning one for the fallen Connecticut player.
The Mountaineers, to a man, were touched by the situation, but that is hardly the way to play a football game, which is a savage game, at times, and one that requires your every positive effort.
Before that game, Neild knew he had to speak up.
“It’s the vibe, a spur of the moment thing,” Neild said of knowing when to speak and what to say.
He was walking a tightrope, he knew, but something had to be done to light the fire for the Mountaineers.
“I don’t want this to sound wrong. We all hurt for Connecticut, but we had to play an important game,” Neild explained. “It was game time. I was afraid we would not come out with a fire.”
And so he spoke out, did what he had to do to get his teammates ready to play. The game was a mission for Connecticut and they stood to win in the final couple of minutes until Noel Devine broke loose on a long touchdown.
Connecticut had won the nation’s sympathy and respect for its courage.
West Virginia had won the game.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.