Tailgaters got game, but Mountaineers, not enough against #4 Oklahoma

We couldn't quite figure out the flag.

Although the feel of an upset was in the air last Saturday, the Mountaineers just couldn’t overcome the Sooners’ powerful rushing attack in the second half.

I thought I could summon plenty of mojo by wearing my gold 2008 Fiesta Bowl Championship shirt and belting “leave no doubt,” but even that couldn’t bestow enough magic to pull out a Mountaineer victory.

It didn’t help that the Mountaineer defense left gaping holes that you could easily run a covered wagon through. They seemed to capitulate after freshman running back Samaje Perine scored 2 touchdowns in the third quarter. The Sooners beat us, 45-33.

Winning tailgate

Josh Funk at WVU vs. Oklahoma tailgateThe pregame, however, is a different story. Mountaineer Nation always wins at tailgating. In fact, this week USA Today recognized West Virginia University as one of the 10 best college football experiences. You’ll get no debate here.

You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for tailgating than this past Saturday. The sky was clear and the air was spiced with the smell of fiery grills and the pleasant sounds of excited conversations and country music.

Grilling steaks

Once again, Dave was the first one to pull into the gold lot at 6:30 a.m. I joined him almost 3 hours later. In keeping to my goal of not gaining weight this season, I walked a mile and a half from the hotel to the tailgate.

And while the lot was still sparse, a few diehard tailgaters were hanging out, including a group of young guys from Deer Creek, Md. They had woken up at 5:30 a.m. and cracked open their first beer at 6. I’m not sure how they fared into the evening, but I hope they made it to the game.

WVU vs. Oklahoma tailgate

A handful of Oklahoma fans showed up at about 9 a.m. I had to mess with them a bit  (all in good fun, of course) as they were setting up enough rows of vodka and whiskey bottles to serve fraternity row. You should’ve seen the crestfallen look on their faces when I told them liquor wasn’t allowed in the gold lot. They were glad I was joking.

WVU vs. Oklahoma tailgate

A family affair

At about 12:30 p.m., my sister, brother-in-law and mom arrived at our tailgate. Missy lives near me in Ohio, but she and Rick were down in West Virginia visiting our mom. Sunday was the 1-year anniversary of our dad’s passing, so we were happy to be together the day before. Our dad was a character with his quick wit. We all miss him dearly.

Missy, mom and me

Missy, mom and me

Mom and dad raised 6 children – 3 boys and 3 girls. And while they both instilled in us a zest for living life to the fullest, dad taught us more about working hard and mom gave us a passion for football. When we were kids, if we walked into the living room during a Cleveland Browns game, she would be sitting on the floor on her knees screaming at the television.

Mom and Missy

My niece Stephanie also joined us at the tailgate, along with her friend Ashlyn, who was visiting from Arkansas.

Rick photobombs Ashlyn and Stephanie

Rick photobombs Ashlyn and Stephanie

It was Ashlyn’s first tailgate. We introduced her to the WVU tailgating lifestyle, complete with delicious food, passionate fans and fun games.

Playing ladder golf

Playing ladder golf

Dave getting the steaks ready

Dave getting the steaks ready

Family affair tailgating

And while I had brought my Mountaineer Margaritas to the tailgate, Stephanie came bearing her first batch of apple pie moonshine.


We even did a shot of moonshine with Shanell Henry, the mom of WVU safety Dravon Henry, who was tailgating next to us with her family and friends from Aliquippa, Pa.


During the tailgate, Shanell’s mom made a large banner for the true freshman starter.

Dravon Henry's mom and grandma

Our other niece Whitney, who lives in Morgantown, joined us as well.

Nieces Whitney and Stephanie

Nieces Whitney and Stephanie

Whitney and Mom

Whitney and Mom

At about 3:30 p.m., our tailgate exploded with activity as a passel of friends – new and old – arrived. The energy around our canopy tent suddenly spiked to a high-jagged peak.

WVU vs. Oklahoma tailgateOne set of parents live in Burlington so they brought a little bit of Vermont with them – including Heady Topper, a double IPA brewed by The Alchemist. This high-demand, craft beer is hard to get even in Vermont.

Dave and Dylan

Dylan and Dave enjoy a can of Heady Topper.

Our friend Henry from Wadsworth, Ohio, also stopped by, but he mistakenly wore the wrong ball cap. Wadworth High School has the same colors as our opposing team.


Wally Cackowski brought his friend, Dave Trentin. They live in the greater Pittsburgh area. We met Wally a few years ago in Morgantown and now we tailgate together a few times a year. Sometimes, we even meet up at away games, like when we were in Austin for the Texas game our first year in the Big 12.

Dave Trentin and Wally Cackowski

Dave Trentin and Wally Cackowski

On our way in to the game, we stopped by Harry and Linda Grandon’s tailgate in the blue lot. I just love their gold-and-blue decorated VW bus. Owen Schmitt’s signature is on the back.

Linda, Harry, and 2 students

Although the game didn’t end in an upset, it was an awesome game day. And now that our Mountaineers have gone up against the #2 and #4 teams, they should be ready for their opponents the rest of the season.


  1. soonernation@charter.netet'Craig Martin says

    H I was at your tailgate for the OU game. I’m the Sooner fan with the cowboy hat. My Son and I love it. I’m a big Wvu fan now. Thanks for the hospitality.

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