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Black Diamond Trophy Comes to Morgantown

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s senior class was learning their ABCs the last time the Virginia Tech Hokies football team came to Morgantown.

Though not a conventional, annual rivalry akin to the Big 12’s Red River and Bedlam Rivalries, the battle for the Black Diamond Trophy has pitted the Mountaineers and Hokies since Nov. 16, 1912. That first meeting took place in Blacksburg, Va. to the tune of a 41-0 WVU loss under one-year head coach William P. Edmunds. Since then, the rivalry has swapped reigning champions 22 times through 52 games, the most recent of which happened in 2004.

The rivalry, which burst into annual existence between 1973-2005 during West Virginia’s Bobby Bowden era, became a quintessential Big East Conference game spanning 1991 to Virginia Tech’s move to the ACC in 2004. The following year ushered in the closing of a true rivalry; it was also the last time the two played in Milan Puskar Stadium.

The Black Diamond Trophy, as it’s now referred, has only been a physical entity since 1997. It was created to honor the coal mining history of the Appalachian region, and the hardworking, blue-collar Americans who found football as their weekend escape from the underground world. That 1997 season, the Mountaineers were the first team to carve their school into the trophy, notching a 30-17 win in Morgantown.

Those preschoolers, now under the direction of head coaches Neal Brown (WVU) and Justin Fuente (VT), are clashing for the first time since 2017. Brown estimates that Fuente’s team has held onto the trophy for more than 6,000 days straight, after winning not only the 2017 neutral site battle, but also the 2004 (Blacksburg) and 2005 (Morgantown) games.

The Mountaineers lead the outright rivalry 28-23-1, and gearing up for a return to Morgantown, also lead the Milan Puskar Stadium home record 16-9.

No. 15 Virginia Tech (2-0) enters this game leading the ACC Coastal. West Virginia (1-1), on paper a narrow upper hand, has quite a bit to clean up in preparation for Saturday’s game, bringing up the rear of the Big 12 at seventh. The first Black Diamond Trophy game in 12 years, this one will mean more to Brown and his team. Trophy games are an elevated instance for Brown’s staff, and the ante is upped by VT’s national ranking and history of match-up win streaks, currently three games into its sixth two-plus game streak.

A Mountaineer win in this 53rd meeting would boost WVU to 2-1 entering Norman, Ok. next week and act as a Power-5 confidence booster entering conference play on Sept. 25. Although WVU couldn’t capitalize in College Park against Maryland to match VT’s 2021 record, this game is expected to be a shoot-out.

As of yesterday, the spread stands to favor the Mountaineers by three. The over-under is 50.5, a solid over bet if the game becomes as high-scoring as recent history indicates. Regardless, Sept. 18 at noon will be a stellar game for both parties, and a test for all sides of Brown’s WVU roster.

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