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Hostetler connects WVU's past, future

CONSIDER THIS A Where Are They Now column. One that nicely collides with a Where They Are Going piece.

It centers on former West Virginia and Super Bowl quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who was in Charleston on Monday to help with an open house of the South Charleston Cardiology group.

A more symbolic man couldn't have been present as West Virginia begins its transition from the Big East to the Big 12.

Hostetler and his father-in-law, former Mountaineer coach Don Nehlen, engineered one of the program's biggest upsets. It was one that put WVU on college football's proverbial map. It was one that spurred all good that's happened to the program. It was the first step toward this jump to the Big 12.

And, ironically, it came against a Big 12 - then Big 8 - member: Oklahoma.

Sept. 11, 1982: Mountaineers 41, Sooners 27. Dateline: Norman, Okla.

"I remember the sea of red," Hostetler said at the open house. "That stadium was just packed. It was 113 degrees on the field. But it was just a great atmosphere to play in."

Most figured it would be the opposite for visiting WVU. Four years prior, in 1978, the Mountaineers made the same trip - and lost 52-10. This, though, was the new, Flying WV Era.

This cat named Oliver Luck did lead the Mountaineers to an upset of Florida in the Peach Bowl to end the '81 season. But Hostetler, a Penn State transfer, then took over and made the earth move with the victory over the Barry Switzer-led No. 9 Sooners.

"I remember falling behind by 14," Hostetler said on Monday. "But we kept our heads and made a comeback."

The comeback started when Oklahoma's kicker missed a field goal. Then WVU's Paul Woodside hit one. Then Hostetler warmed up.

"When you go to somebody else's home opener, you have to withstand the opening round of punches," he remembered. "And they hit us hard. Our goal was to remain standing, then go ahead and deliver some of our own. That's what we did."

Hostetler hit tight end Mark Raugh for a score. He went 52 yards to Rich Hollins, setting the team on the OU 10. The QB was cooking. He hit Willie Drewery for 49 yards. Darrell Miller caught an "81 deep." Wayne Brown got in the act.

In the end, Curlin Beck sealed the upset on a draw for a score. But it was Hostetler who won ESPN's Vitalis Most Valuable Player award that day. The then-6-3, 212-pound junior finished with 321 yards and four touchdowns in his first game as a Mountaineer.

The 41 points was the most ever scored on the Sooners in the state of Oklahoma. Of course, at the end of the 2007 season, right after Rich Rodriguez bolted, WVU defeated Oklahoma 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. The series now stands at 2-2. (OU defeated WVU 47-14 in 1958. In case you forgot.)

"There's a special connection for me," Hostetler said of the series. "I can't wait until Oklahoma comes in [to Morgantown on Nov. 17]. I'll be at that game. It will have a little special meaning for me."

To catch you up, Hostetler, who was the winning quarterback for the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV, still resides in Morgantown.

"I'm involved in Morgantown with an organization called the Hoss Foundation," he said. "I've been really involved in helping families struggling. I'm also involved in construction, with a construction and development company.

"I just spend a lot of time in Morgantown. I'm a grandfather now. So I've been trying to spend some time with my granddaughter. She's four months old. I'm looking forward to spoiling her."

He's also looking forward to WVU's new conference affiliation. Especially that Nov. 17 game.

"On the way down [to Charleston] I was talking to Coach Nehlen about it," Hostetler said. "I'm excited about it. When teams like Oklahoma and Texas come to Morgantown, there's going to be a lot of excitement. It's an exciting time."

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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