Country Roads, Take Me Home: Road To CFB Tour West Virginia Game Day

You don’t just arrive through Morgantown, West Virginia. Located 75 miles south of Pittsburgh, 200 miles east of Washington DC, and 200 miles west of Columbus, you have to be intentional to find it.

For the most part, there’s a reason you find Morgantown, West Virginia, and it’s to cheer on mountain climbers.

Take me Home,

A local experience

I was lucky to have two great hosts before kick-off who showed me the ropes of what it means to be a mountaineer. One embodies it so much that he was THE West Virginia Mountaineer in the late 1980s and an absolute celebrity on the field.

Just minutes after visiting the Alumni Center, I was immersed in mountain culture with a mason jar of pure bootleg liquor and pinned down by a retired sheriff. If you never got the real stuff, let me just say it’s a good thing I took notes for the next two hours.

Thanks to my local hosts, I was able to experience a football game day in West Virginia while beating entirely above my own weight class. We were treated to dinner at the Alumni Center before planting some tailgates.

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Being attached at the hip with a former student who knows everyone and is known to everyone was a real treat. I rubbed shoulders with a state senator, high profile donors and former players. In Morgantown, there’s no shortage of gracious hosts ready to offer you some sparkle and a beer.

The other major culinary stop in a West Virginia game is the pepperoni rolls. A local delicacy, I was told to “never go for the ones wrapped in plastic”.

West Virginia Pride

On your way to the stadium, navigate to the northern corner and tap the coal on the path. The team does, and it’s supposed to bring good luck to the climbers, who pay homage to the state’s strong mining influence.

Good thing we all tapped the coal going in, because WVU brought all the luck this Thursday night.

Sit down early too, the Pride of West Virginia is one of the best bands in the country. The drum line leads things with a dance number they call the “Boogie” cadence. Then the rest of the 340 (yes, 340!) members rush in. The West Virginia pride dons capes and performs some of the most intricate and engaging routines in the country.

The halftime included a tribute to John Williams on his 90th birthday, with the band forming a whip-cracking Indiana Jones, a walking dinosaur of jurassic parkand the flying bike of HEY

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After a hugely entertaining pre-game show, the team races to the new Narcos theme (see: Closer Mets song).

A shooting in Morgantown!

Milan’s Puskar Stadium is notoriously one of the toughest environments for opposing teams. The mountain nation is extremely loud, disruptive and passionate.

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Unfortunately for this game on Thursday, the stadium was only about 75% full (and that’s probably a generous number). Baylor took a 17-7 lead and the crowd took a minute to recover.

But in the second half, WVU came out battering and a 65-yard fumble recovery TD got them back in the game. Suddenly, the quiet, obnoxious crowd comes alive with thunderous chants of “LET’S GO!” and echoed “MONTAGNEERS!” from one end to the other.

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The other big play delivered was a blocked extra run following a Baylor TD that West Virginia fired for two runs. This took the game to a 37-33 Baylor lead, which was erased by JT Daniels and WVU late in the game.

Driving late, West Virginia caught a pass from backup Baylor (starter Blake Shapen left with an injury). The crowd was explosive as they expected to see their climbers marching down the pitch and winning the game.

And then JT Daniels threw a pick on the next game.

Baylor tied the game at 40 with a basket on a terrific WVU defensive save. The ‘Neers got the ball back and fired a basket with seconds left and closed out a crazy game, 43-40.

The win wasn’t just exciting for the home fans. A victory in Morgantown means one thing…we all sing country roads.

West Virginia Game Day Notes

Stadium:B-. WVU games are really more about atmosphere than physical location. It’s more intimate than 60,000 – which for me is a positive – but otherwise it’s pretty standard. Renovations to both end areas help and the sound system is pretty killer.

Tradition: A. country roads is one of my absolute favorite traditions. Singing with the other 45,000 WVU fans was a treat. It’s a long-running program with a ton of history and the 15th winningest program in college football. Morgantown’s clout and local pride is at the elite level.

Atmosphere:B. I have been told several times that this game would have looked different on a hot Saturday and I totally buy it. 75% capacity was a bit disappointing, not just for me but for other fans. But when that crowd was loaded, you didn’t notice the empty seats.

Tailgating:B. Another note probably inhibited by the fact that it’s a Thursday night. The individual quality of the tailgates is on par with anywhere else.

Fans: A-. Friendly, passionate, welcoming. Those are the words I would use to describe WVU fans. I had a lot of fun with the whole fanbase. Why not the note +, then? I would like to see a little more support for such an important game, even if it’s a Thursday night. But those who were there are first rate people.


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Toya J. Bell