Powered by:
as known from New York Timesas known from USA Todayas known from yahoo!
VA
Contains commercial content
The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / 1988 West Virginia Mountaineers: Almost Heaven

1988 West Virginia Mountaineers: Almost Heaven

Publish Date: 10/05/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

The Lambert Trophy is presented yearly to the best college football team in the East. Although teams have since consolidated into mega-conferences, its value has diminished considerably; back when college football teams were independent and stayed more in their region, this trophy held great significance. In 1988 West Virginia football won it with their unbeaten regular season; that trophy was a big deal then.

Don Nehlen became West Virginia’s head coach in 1980 and produced some solid teams. The 1988 squad, ranked 16th in the preseason AP poll, featured Major Harris, who boasted agility and an electric arm which would prove lethal even under modern spread offenses.

Harris excelled as an accurate passer, averaging 10.3 yards per pass while completing 57% of his throws. Calvin Phillips and Reggie Rembert were his primary receivers, while A.B. Brown and Undra Johnson contributed significantly. Harris led his team as the third-leading rusher while serving as the leading passer on offense as well.

West Virginia had future NFL stars Bo Orlando and Alvoid Mays on defense, along with cornerback Willie Edwards. But taking home the Lambert Trophy wouldn’t be easy–Syracuse had just completed an 11-0-1 campaign, Pitt was performing well, and Joe Paterno couldn’t be counted out of anything in East Coast football. Still, Nehlen had everything it would take to compete.

West Virginia opened their season by dominating three easy games against Bowling Green, UC-Fullerton and Maryland scoring 162 points combined in those three games, upping them into 11th in the polls and setting up an exciting match-up against #16 Pitt for “The Backyard Brawl” scheduled on September 24.

Harris made his presence felt early: On a third-and-25 play in the first quarter, he took off on a bootleg run, amassing 38 yards then after that electrifying play he tossed a 33-yard touchdown strike to Rembert for West Virginia to lead 10-7 at halftime. Brown later scored on an incredible 64-yard touchdown run as West Virginia cruised home with a 31-10 victory.

Wins At Virginia Tech (Frank Beamer had just begun his resurgence), East Carolina and Boston College–three easy victories were yet to come in 1988, running West Virginia’s record to 6-0.

West Virginia had long anticipated Penn State coming to town and they finally arrived, the Mountaineers would enter the contest ranked #7.

Penn State was not playing its best football this time. Coming into this matchup with only a 4-3 record, it seemed destined to fail. When your fans have been taken down so often by your opponent as West Virginia fans had done to by Penn State you take nothing for granted before this contest began, this should be your opportunity for redemption and victory!

Oddsmakers had a clearer perspective and installed West Virginia as a 13 1/2 point favorite, which proved too conservative. Harris made several remarkable plays during this game – throwing 12/20 for 230 yards without an interception but using his legs to dodge Lion defenders on option plays and run 73 yards to score on one!

As halftime approached, West Virginia led 27-8, and Nehlen was looking to end the game quickly. To do this, he called for a draw play involving running back Derrick Johnson, who ran it 55 yards to score and give West Virginia their highest-ever ranking at #4 in polls. They won 51-30 against Ohio University with an incredible second-half performance by Nehlen’s squad.

Harris led West Virginia’s offense to score 86 total points during wins over Cincinnati and Rutgers, setting off one more hurdle that stood between them and an undefeated season: Syracuse was 9-1 with their only defeat coming against Ohio State in September; should Syracuse win their season finale in Morgantown, they would capture another Lambert Trophy and West Virginia would lose out not only national title aspirations but even regional pride symbols like an unblemished record.

However, West Virginia fans needn’t have been alarmed; their defense and running game was up for the challenge of facing Syracuse. Brown ran for 103 yards, while Harris added 96. Johnson added 72 more. With West Virginia leading 14-3 at halftime, Edwards sealed it by intercepting Syracuse quarterback Todd Philcox for an interception that Edwards returned safely home; West Virginia then won 31-9 and completed their perfect regular season record.

Nehlen and his players set their sights on more than just winning the Lambert Trophy. As third in the polls behind Notre Dame and Miami, West Virginia would get its chance to play Notre Dame again in the Fiesta Bowl if West Virginia had won, they would leapfrog Miami into first place for national supremacy.

Notre Dame and Miami were on another level that year. West Virginia fell behind 26-6 before Harris injured his shoulder while throwing a third-quarter touchdown pass, ending any chance for a comeback and producing an unexpectedly close final score of 34-21. That score was much closer than the game actually was.

West Virginia finished #5 nationally and took home their inaugural Lambert Trophy, brought home to Morgantown. West Virginia has never been this good since, and that’s not to say the program has been bad because it hasn’t. 1988 was a year that will never be duplicated again in West Virginia. Nobody expected that team to make a run like that all the way to the National Championship game. It was a magical year to be a Mountaineer!

Read Also
The Complexities of Bob Knight: The Greatest Coach of All-Time
  Bob Knight, born in 1940 and raised in Orrville, Ohio, was ...
Top 18 Greatest College Football Coaches of All-time
Current active coaches are not included in this list. That means don't ...
BetMGM Promo
The Greatest College Basketball Team of All Time
Rating the greatest college basketball teams ever has been done many times ...
Come Fly with me: How the 1988-89 Chicago Bulls pushed forward to an NBA dynasty.
Find the best sportsbook to bet on the NBA Playoffs! Prologue: By ...
Esteban de Jesus, Roberto Duran y AIDS (1972-89)
Many of us dream of celebrity sports fame, but only cruel individuals ...
Elmer Ray: The Humble Man of Hastings
"Men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, for ...
Grading every NFL teamโ€™s picks from the 2021 NFL Draft
Quickly, click away if youโ€™re going to get upset by reading draft ...
Ranking the top 200 players in the NFL ahead of the 2021 season
This list isnโ€™t based solely on performances from the 2020 NFL season. ...
Sportsbook of the month
PointsBet - Get your Bonus Bet now!
-
Top Brands
Top Bonuses
Stake.us
Stake.us
Stake.us Review
4.6/5
Wow Vegas
Wow Vegas
Wow Vegas Review
4.6/5
Sweeptastic
Sweeptastic
Sweeptastic Review
4.5/5
High5Casino
High5Casino
High5Casino Review
4.5/5
Fortune Coins
Fortune Coins
Fortune Coins Review
4.5/5
Stake.us
Stake.us Bonus
$25 No Deposit + 250,000 Gold Coins + 5% Rakeback
T&Cs apply
4.6/5
Wow Vegas
Wow Vegas Bonus
30 SCs on 1st Purchase + 4.5 SCs FREE
T&Cs apply
4.6/5
Sweeptastic
Sweeptastic Bonus
25 SCs extra free on first purchases + 2 SCs FREE to claim
T&Cs apply
4.5/5
High5Casino
High5Casino Bonus
$5 No Deposit + 250 GameCoins + 600 Diamonds
T&Cs apply
4.5/5
Fortune Coins
Fortune Coins Bonus
1,000 ($10) No Deposit Free Coins + 360,000 Gold Coins
T&Cs apply
4.5/5
Latest News
NFL Week 13 Quarterback Power rankings: A New number one!
Goff's brave resilience has won him fans in ...
Top 10 Dirtiest Boxers of All Time
Dirty boxing was more prevalent in the early ...
Top 10 Left-Handed Pitchers in Baseball History
Two hundred eighty-eight victories, there are currently only ...
Betting Tips
11/29/2023 - 7:15 pm
Chapel Hill
Tip:
North Carolina to Cover
-1.50
FanDuel
11/26/2023 - 4:30 pm
Gainbridge
Tip:
Harvard to Cover
6.50
FanDuel
11/25/2023 - 12:00 pm
Michigan Sradium
Tip:
Ohio State to Cover
4.00
FanDuel
Our Latest YouTube Videos
Video: Indiana Basketball weekly W/Steve Risley: IU/Harvard Preview and UCONN and Louisville Recaps!
Indiana Basketball weekly W/Steve Risley: IU/Harvard Preview and UCONN and Louisville Recaps!
Video: Indiana Basketball Weekly W/Steve Risley: Indiana vs Army Preview and Florida Gulf Coast recap!
Indiana Basketball Weekly W/Steve Risley: Indiana vs Army Preview and Florida Gulf Coast recap!
Video: SEC Championship Georgia vs Alabama: Preview and Prediction
SEC Championship Georgia vs Alabama: Preview and Prediction
Sportsbook of the month
PointsBet - Get your Bonus Bet now!
-
Find out what the legends have to say about sports this week....
Top Online Casinos
Top Casinos Bonuses
Stake.us
Stake.us
Stake.us Review
4.6/5
Wow Vegas
Wow Vegas
Wow Vegas Review
4.6/5
Sweeptastic
Sweeptastic
Sweeptastic Review
4.5/5
High5Casino
High5Casino
High5Casino Review
4.5/5
Fortune Coins
Fortune Coins
Fortune Coins Review
4.5/5
Stake.us
Stake.us Bonus
$25 No Deposit + 250,000 Gold Coins + 5% Rakeback
T&Cs apply
4.6/5
Wow Vegas
Wow Vegas Bonus
30 SCs on 1st Purchase + 4.5 SCs FREE
T&Cs apply
4.6/5
Sweeptastic
Sweeptastic Bonus
25 SCs extra free on first purchases + 2 SCs FREE to claim
T&Cs apply
4.5/5
High5Casino
High5Casino Bonus
$5 No Deposit + 250 GameCoins + 600 Diamonds
T&Cs apply
4.5/5
Fortune Coins
Fortune Coins Bonus
1,000 ($10) No Deposit Free Coins + 360,000 Gold Coins
T&Cs apply
4.5/5
Top Betting Sites
Top Betting Bonuses
DraftKings
DraftKings
DraftKings Review
4.6/5
FanDuel
FanDuel
FanDuel Review
4.6/5
BetMGM
BetMGM
BetMGM Review
4.5/5
Bet365
Bet365
Bet365 Review
4.5/5
BetRivers.com
BetRivers.com
BetRivers.com Review
4.5/5
DraftKings
DraftKings Bonus
Bet $5 Get $150 Instantly
T&Cs apply
4.6/5
FanDuel
FanDuel Bonus
Bet $5 Get $150 in Bonus Bets
T&Cs apply
4.6/5
BetMGM
BetMGM Bonus
up to $1,500 back in Bonus Bets
T&Cs apply
4.5/5
Bet365
Bet365 Bonus
$1000 in Bonus Bets
T&Cs apply
4.5/5
Place your first cash bet up to $1,000, and if the bet loses, you will have your wager refunded in Bonus Bets. T&Cs, time limits and exclusions apply. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-Gambler 21+
Caesars
Caesars Bonus
100% up to $1000
T&Cs apply
4.5/5
Our Team
Mike GoodpasterAuthor IconJosh SchwartzSamuel TeetsSimon Briffa
+10
Mike Goodpaster
Mike Goodpaster
Chief Editor
Author Icon
Christopher Carlson
Content Writer
Josh Schwartz
Josh Schwartz
Editor
Samuel Teets
Samuel Teets
US Sports Veteran
Simon Briffa
Simon Briffa
Sports Editor
Mark Lewis
Mark Lewis
Editor
Chris Benedict
Chris Benedict
Editor
Author Icon
Daniel Kornhauser
Author
John Raspanti
John Raspanti
Author
Author Icon
Malik Zorrok
Author
Author Icon
Buddy Gibbs
Author
Brian Coburn
Brian Coburn
Author
aukje
aukje
Author
Peter Bonahoom
Peter Bonahoom
Author
berina
berina
Author
Find out what the legends have to say about sports this week....

Players must be 21 years of age or older or reach the minimum age for gambling in their respective state and located in jurisdictions where online gambling is legal. Please play responsibly. Bet with your head, not over it. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, and wants help, call or visit: (a) the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey at 1-800-Gambler or www.800gambler.org; or (b) Gamblers Anonymous at 855-2-CALL-GA or www.gamblersanonymous.org.

This site is using Cloudflare and adheres to the Google Safe Browsing Program. We adapted Google's Privacy Guidelines to keep your data safe at all times.

21+NCPG
Move to Top
Close
Players accepted in the US US Flag
Stake.us Exclusive Bonus
$25 No Deposit + 250,000 Gold Coins + 5% Rakeback
Promo Code
Copy
Visit Site
T&Cs apply, 18+
Payment Methods
Bitcoin
Litecoin
Ethereum
Dogecoin
Highlights
  • Exclusive promo code: TGTSOCIAL
  • Play Plinko, Hilo, Crash and more!
  • Get Stake Cash bonuses every day!
Stake Originals
Dice
Crash
Plinko
Mines
×
Your Promo Code:
The bonus offer of was already opened in an additional window. If not, you can open it also by clicking the following link:
Visit Site