You could not have asked for a more perfect weekend to kick off the WVU football season. The warm, bright weather matched the fiery spirit of Mountaineer Nation.
In a town and state where everything revolves around college football and the Mountaineers, you could feel the buzz of excitement with the start of a new season and a new head coach.
On Friday, we met up with our friends Bill and Elena, who live in New Jersey, and Robin Breakiron of Cheat Lake.
We started at Mountain State Brewing Co. for some delicious Fire on the Mountain flat bread and then headed to our favorite spot, Mario’s Fishbowl. As usual, Mario’s Fishbowl resembled a big family reunion where we reconnected with our favorite relatives and even met a few new ones.
When we were at the Fishbowl, we noticed a table of JMU fans.
Being the ambassador that I am, I went over and introduced myself. It turns out they had come to Mario’s Fishbowl because of this blog. Meeting this group of young JMU alumni cinched my decision to restart this blog.
Game Day is Golden.
Dave got the ball rolling like a champ on game day, setting up our tailgate by 6 a.m. for the 2 p.m. game.
By the time I walked up to our tailgate at 8:30 a.m., the gold lot had already been aroused by a bustle of activity.
The parents next to us have a daughter who’s a freshman at WVU. It was their first of soon-to-be many game days in Morgantown. Once you experience it, WVU tailgating can be as alluring as a Labor Day sale to a shopaholic.
The game-day atmosphere is much more about sharing than competing. And there was plenty of sharing going around.
Bill had grilled the most succulent, smoked chipotle beef and cornbread, which he served up to everyone around us.
Another crowd-pleaser of the day was WVU President Gordon Gee. He stopped by in his bowtie and flying WV-embroidered khakis to visit with the good folks of the gold lot.
There were also many conflicted families who had ties to both JMU and WVU. One such family set up across from us in the gold lot. The mom, Kate, is a WVU alumnus and the daughter is a JMU student.
It was great to see such a strong turnout of JMU fans. A father wearing a JMU shirt and WVU hat told me he was paying tuition to both schools.
As the temperature rose throughout the late morning and early afternoon, so did the spirits of the tailgaters.
Once at the game, the hot, still air gathered in the stadium like additional spectators, and we prayed for the casual mercy of a cross breeze.
Unfortunately, my team’s performance was not so hot, especially in the first half. The only upside before halftime was getting to see my friend, Mark Tillinghast, who I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. Mark and I grew up in adjacent counties in West Virginia, and we spent a lot of time hanging out in college.
He and his family live in North Carolina and he hadn’t been to a WVU game in 15 years. I’m so happy I got to see him.
And fortunately, my Mountaineers were able to duke it out on the gridiron during the second half to get the W. Let’s hope they can do the same this weekend.