In this week’s Throwback Thursday (yes, this is the first edition for WVUPros.com), we go all the way back to 1981.
The West Virginia Mountaineers were led by QB Oliver Luck and LB Darryl Talley that season, although Mickey Walczack and Don Stemple were the offensive and defensive MVP’s respectively.
The win capped off Don Nehlen’s second season as the head coach of the Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers came into the game as a huge underdog to the heavily favored Florida Gators. However, we all know the boys in the Gold n’ Blue relish the role as underdogs.
“We decided, hey, since we have no chance why not just script it and stay on it,” Nehlen recalled. “If we come up third down and this and it’s a long bomb, do it. Well, we came up and it was third down and six inches and the script said quarterback draw. I remember saying to Gary Tranquill, ‘If we run it they’ll think we’re crazy.’ We ran it and it gained about 14 yards.”
The game was played at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium on what was an unusually cold day for that part of the country. The conditions fitted the Mountaineers more so than the near tropical climate the Gators enjoy year round in Gainesville.
The Mountaineers used those conditions to make life miserable for Gator QB Wayne Peace. A constant swarm of blitzes caused him to finish 6 of 13 passing for 47 yards and 2 INTs.
As much as the Mountaineers flustered the Gator offense, the matched that on the other side of the ball. Luck kept hitting Walczack with swing passes, allowing him to score both of the Mountaineers touchdowns in the game.
The Luck led Mountaineers were ahead 16-0 at halftime, and a late Gator TD brought the final score to 26-6.
Nehlen had high praise for his team that season.
“The ’81 Peach Bowl team I thought was probably as tough a team that I ever had.”
The Mountaineers finished ranked in the polls for the first time since 1975, coming in at #17 and #18 in the AP and Coaches Polls, respectively.
The next game the Mountaineers played? The famous 1982 come-from-behind win over then #9 Oklahoma led by a young QB named Jeff Hostetler in the season opener.