MORGANTOWN — What’s the best way to tell if it’s going to be a long season for your favorite college football team?
Struggling to beat a mid-major school that was 0-11 the previous year might be a good indicator.
So proved the 1990 season opener for No. 25 WVU against Kent State.
“The press said it would be a 50-0 blowout,” said sophomore running back Garrett Ford, Jr. after the game.
Ford did his best to make that prediction correct, as he took a handoff on the Mountaineers’ very first offensive play of the season, skirted the right end, and raced untouched into the endzone on a 57-yard scoring run that electrified the Mountaineer Field crowd of 52,346.
A 7-0 lead after only 13 seconds. Piece o’ cake, right?
Then fifth-year senior quarterback Greg Jones found Mike Baker alone in the end zone for a 7-yard score – his first college reception — on the next offensive possession.
Two drives, two defensive stops, followed by two touchdown drives. This college football stuff is EASY!
The Golden Flashes came back with a decent nine-play, 43-yard drive that ended with a field goal, but when Jones engineered a 12-play, 81-yard response midway through the second quarter, capped by Rico Tyler’s 7-yard TD reception, the lead was 21-3, and the rout was on!
Kent State got a big kickoff return from Aaron Kinebrew (WVU would suffer from special-teams tackling issues all day) and marched in from the WVU 40 in nine plays to make it 21-10 at the half on a Joe Dalpra 3-yard scoring pass. And to the astonishment of the late halftime tailgate stragglers, KSU took the second half kickoff and grinded out a 15-play, 66-yard drive finished off with Dalpra’s scoring sweep from the three to draw to within four at 21-17 midway through the quarter.
The WVU offense responded with a quick 52-yard drive highlighted by receiver Ed Hill’s 32-yard catch and run. Michael Beasley bulled in from the one as the quarter expired to re-establish the 11-point lead. But the Golden Flashes refused to be extinguished. Another long drive led to another Dalpra TD pass with just under 10 minutes left.
Up by just 28-24, WVU went three-and-out, and Kent State was driving for a potential go-ahead score with a big third-down completion, but Dalpra was flagged for an illegal forward pass after crossing the line ofscrimmage. Bullet dodged, the Mountaineers finally put the game to bed when redshirt freshman Jon Jones mirrored Ford’s opening carry, sweeping right and running down the sideline for a 32-yard touchdown on his first collegiate carry.
Greg Hertog’s stadium-record 73-yard punt pinned KSU back near its own goal, and time ran out on the upset hopes, as Mountaineers fans fretted their way to the parking lot, relieved but disappointed after the 35-24 escape.
As it turned out, they had plenty to worry about. West Virginia limped through the year to a 4-7 finish.