Thoughts on West Virginia football fans in Morgantown
Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen can blare John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in practice all week – like he has done before leading up to games at West Virginia – and it won’t really prepare players for the atmosphere they are about to encounter this weekend.
This is a spirited rivalry, and it’s good to see it will be played each year at least through 2017. From my experience, West Virginia offers the second-most hostile environment that Maryland has seen in recent years. I’ll keep Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium at the top of the list in the ACC. But the scene in Morgantown, W.Va., beats Clemson, it beats Florida State and it sure as heck beats anything else in the ACC (other than Lane, of course).
It’s also is a great place to watch/cover a game. I always enjoy going, although I’ve overheard small pockets of fans chant things I wouldn’t dare repeat here. Overall, the fan base is passionate and intense, much like Maryland’s basketball crowd. I covered Pittsburgh's victory over West Virginia up there a few years ago -- a significant upset that denied West Virginia a berth in the national title game -- and I can still picture tens of thousands of depressed fans trudging from the stadium into the black of night. They were crushed, and that image has stuck with me because they invested so much into their team.
And don’t think the players don’t care about this WVU-Maryland rivalry. I remember I asked Adam "Pacman" Jones a question after one West Virginia victory over Maryland – can’t remember the question – and he took serious offense to the question, as if I dismissed his program. He got fired up, his tone changed and he talked about how he’s not afraid of any school, etc., and that he’s from a rough neighborhood in Atlanta. That was the same game that West Virginia’s Kay-Jay Harris threw his hand in the air in the interview room and shouted, “We must protect this house!” mocking Maryland’s Under Armour commercial. He then said that was West Virginia’s slogan all week and asked, “Is Under Armour second-guessing why they didn’t come to Coach [Rich Rodriguez] to give him an endorsement deal?”
The trash talk is a prime ingredient in this rivalry. But regardless of whether any bad blood still exists, this will be a tough, competitive game on the field. Both teams are unbeaten, but significant questions loom for both. Should be fun. Can't wait.
September 14, 2010; 11:09 AM ET
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