The Good Lord blessed me with a pretty good memory. I can remember situations in my life reaching back many, many years.
The passing of time astounds me. I get teased by my cohorts (and great friends) Josh Lewis, Kennie Bass and A.J. Good by saying, “Hard to believe it is already week two or whatever of a given sports season.”
So, it is “Hard to believe” that the final installment of the Friends of Coal Bowl has come and gone.
I was there for six of the seven. I missed the 2009 encounter due to a trip to South Carolina when we were producing the weekly University of Charleston “Golden Eagles Today” TV show. UC played that weekend on the road, and in the end I was the only one who could go.
So, I missed what turned out to be the debut for Geno Smith after Jarrett Brown was knocked out of the game.
It seems like just yesterday Kennie Bass and I were anchoring an hour-long special live from Milan Puskar Stadium (with Josh Lewis in our Charleston studio) prior to that kickoff in 2006. I then hustled down to the field to work as the sideline reporter for ESPN Regional’s telecast of the game.
After WVU’s victory, I ran back up to our live truck site to anchor with Kennie and Josh our special 30-minute postgame show.
I was there in sweltering heat of the 2007 game when Marshall gave West Virginia quite a scare before the Mountaineers pulled away. It was a big day in Huntington with WVU coming to town.
It was back to Morgantown in 2008. This time around I worked the sidelines for what was the Big East Network Game of the Week. Sandwiched between those duties was Kennie and I anchoring from Morgantown, along with Josh in our Charleston studio, 30-minute pregame and postgame shows.
The 2008 game was meaningful from a standpoint that it was the late Bill Stewart’s first season as WVU’s head coach. I interviewed Bill going off the field at halftime and after the game. Bill had once upon a time recruited me to play football at old Salem College. Our friendship went back many years. It’s hard to believe he is gone.
In 2010, Huntington again hosted the Mountaineers. It was Doc Holliday’s first season as Marshall’s head coach. I was then working the radio sidelines for the Marshall network. Marshall nearly pulled the upset before Smith and company stormed back, got the game to overtime and pulled out the victory.
It was quite a show on a Friday night.
The 2011 game marked the debut of Dana Holgorsen as head coach on a Sunday afternoon. Many will recall (and may like to forget) the two lightning delays that turned what should have been a contest lasting perhaps three hours and 45 minutes to being nearly a seven-hour day.
Finally, we were at game seven of the series on Saturday. Both teams put up great offensive numbers, but West Virginia proved to be a bit too strong in the finale.
All-in-all, the Friends of Coal Bowl has been a lot of fun. There has been a bit too much bickering between the two sides for my liking along the way, but for the most part it was enjoyable and I feel good for the state.
There is no discussion as to when the two sides will meet again. Considering they’ve now played just 12 times total (with West Virginia winning all 12), the gap between showdowns won’t be as lengthy.
Seven games over a seven-year period.
Much has changed since it all started. Since that time Rich Rodriguez, who guided WVU in the ’06 and ’07 games, has served as a head coach at Michigan and is now the football leader in Arizona.
Bill Stewart, God rest his soul, left us all this past May. Stew loved coaching at WVU, but also had a deep affection for Marshall. He got his start at the big-time level of coaching with the Thundering Herd in 1980.
Holgorsen, a hot-shot offensive mind, is now in year two at WVU.
Mark Snyder, who coached in the first four FOC Bowls as Marshall’s head coach, has been at South Florida and is now guiding the defense for Texas A&M.
And Doc Holliday, who coached at WVU in the ’08 and ’09 games as Stewart’s top assistant, is now entrenched in year three as Marshall’s head coach.
The FOC Bowl was a run ride. Maybe, at some point down the road, we will all hop on again.