Series History: West Virginia v Missouri
West Virginia has been playing football since 1891 and the Missouri Tigers started their program in 1890 but the two programs have met just six times over their storied histories. The first of those meetings occurred nearly a hundred years ago and the most recent happened at Milan Puskar Stadium just three years ago. The Mountaineers will travel to Columbia this weekend to try to break a 3-3 series tie and sweep the home-and-home series that began with that 2016 match up.
The first time WVU and Missouri scrapped on the gridiron was way back in 1926, the first half of a two game series that was completed the next year. In just the third year of playing in old Mountaineer Field, the Tigers trekked up from the Midwest and handed coach Rat Rogers’ Mountaineer side a 27-0 whipping, one of four losses in a 6-4 season. A year later, the Old Gold and Blue journeyed down to Columbia and came back with their tails between their legs, getting shutout once again. With this result coming 13-0, WVU ate their fourth loss of the season, the final in a 2-4-3 season.
In 1993, the Mountaineers exacted a measure of revenge and picked up their first win against Missouri with a 35-3 blowout at Milan Puskar Stadium. This pushed WVU out to a 3-0 start, a roll that would stay on, finishing with a perfect 11-0 record in the regular season behind the quarterback rotation of Jake Kelchner and Darren Studstill. Meanwhile, the Tigers finished just 3-7-1 and head coach Bob Still was gone after the season. The second half of this home-and-home series was played at Missouri the next season. With WVU coming off a Sugar Bowl appearance, the Mountaineers suffered a blowout loss to eventual national champion Nebraska and would only recover enough to reach a 7-6 record. However, they did sweep the series with the Tigers, nabbing a 34-10 win in Columbia as Chad Johnston took over as the starting quarterback for his home state Mountaineers.
The only game that has pitted WVU against Missouri outside the regular season was in the 1998 Insight.com Bowl. The Mountaineers entered the season ranked eleventh in the country but disappointed, finishing the regular season 8-3 and unranked. This record earned them a match up with the Tigers who, despite finishing 7-4, was ranked from Week 2 on with all four losses coming to teams ranked in the top ten. The game started off poorly for the Mountaineers as Missouri got on the board by returning a blocked field goal seventy yards for a score, followed by a short touchdown run on their next drive. The Mountaineers responded with a field goal, but the first half continued to roll down hill. A safety, followed by Corby Jones’ second touchdown run of the game gave the Tigers 24-3 halftime lead.
In the second half, Marc Bulger and the WVU passing attack exploded, scoring on a pass to David Saunders and making the score 24-10. Jones picked up his third score of the game to extend Missouri’s lead to 21 but Bulger came right back and hit Khori Ivy for a touchdown. The WVU defense would hold again and Amos Zereoue would reel in a pass from Bulger to cut the lead down to just one touchdown. Missouri would drive down the field and hit a short field goal, bringing the score to 34-24. Saunders went on to grab his second touchdown of the game make it a three point game but it was too little, too late as the final score of 34-31 would hold up.
The series lay dormant for eighteen years before a home-and-home series was announced and Missouri came to Morgantown to open the 2016 season. The Tigers brought along a pair of high-caliber NFL prospects in quarterback Drew Lock and defensive end Charles Harris, the latter of whom would be a first round pick by the Miami Dolphins the following spring. This was very much a stereotypical opening week game with an uncommon 26-11 final score and not much in the way of big plays. WVU made the first three scores of the game, a pair of Mike Molina field goals and a Rushel Shell touchdown run, building a 13-0 lead before Missouri got on the board with a field goal of their own. However, that was the last time they would score until there were 1:49 remaining in the game. WVU dominated a slugfest on both sides of the ball with each of its scoring drives being at least sixty yards in length. Lock would toss a touchdown in garbage time but WVU came away with a convincing opening win over a Power 5 opponent.
Despite having very little in common on the surface, WVU and Missouri have a relatively rich history of competition on the football field. With the series tied and no sign of it being renewed in the coming years, the victor of this game looks to control the ledger for a long time going forward. It’s safe to say that, as far as history goes, the jury is still out on this Saturday’s game.
Be sure to subscribe to WVSportsNow.com for all the latest news and updates on the Mountaineers!