SPORTS OP-ED: William & Mary-West Virginia Football Series Rich in History

by Rene A. Henry
Rene A. Henry
Rene A. Henry

SEATTLE, Wash. (Special to HNN) – When William & Mary travels to Morgantown on Saturday (August 31) to face West Virginia in the season opener for both schools it will be their first meeting since 1972.

 The series, which began in 1954, is rich in history.  W&M is still looking for its first win.  The Mountaineers have won 15 of the 16 games.  The 1967 game in Williamsburg ended in a 16-16 tie.  

 Jimmye Laycock begins his 34th season as W&M’s head coach and has a career record of 215-160-2 that makes him the fifth winningest active FCS coach.  Only the University of Albany’s Bob Ford has been at a FBS or FCS school longer.  Upset-minded W&M is perennially ranked in the top 20 of FCS or Division 1A teams and has a reputation for surprising its bigger brothers in Division 1.  Last year Maryland had to come from behind at home in the game’s closing minutes to avert an upset, 7-6.  Two years ago North Carolina overcame a W&M lead in the last quarter at Chapel Hill to win 21-17.  In 2009 W&M beat Virginia in Charlottesville 26-14.

 In fact, Laycock played in four games against WVU between 1966-1969 including the 16-16 tie.  He played for two legendary Hall of Fame coaches: Marv Levy and Lou Holtz.  Laycock was in the defensive secondary his first two years and finished his career at quarterback.

 The first game on November 13, 1954 in Williamsburg was my first homecoming on the campus where I had been Sports Information Director before graduating in June.  Then I joined WVU as Sports Information Director and for the next two years replaced Edgar O. “Eddie” Barrett while he was on active military duty.  

The previous year WVU won the Southern Conference Championship and was ranked 10th in the country by Associated Press with an 8-2 record that included a loss to Georgia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.  W&M had a remarkable year in 1953 playing the entire season with only 24 players and 15 scholarships.  The team, called “The Iron Indians,” lost only once in its first six games, had a 3-0 record against teams in the new Atlantic Coast Conference, and tied then nationally-ranked Navy.  

 That weekend in Colonial Williamsburg was marked with several incidents.  In the third quarter, Gene “Beef” Lamone, had an altercation with a W&M lineman on a punt return.  After the next play, Lamone, returned to the WVU huddle bleeding from the mouth.  Players then did not have protective face masks.  Quarterback Fred Wyant looked at him and asked what happened.  “That guy knocked out my tooth,” Lamone said.  As Wyant started speaking “OK guys, let’s get him ….,” Lamone interrupted.  “No. No. Don’t make him any madder than he already is!”  Lamone was a fifth draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles but a knee injury prevented him from playing.

Lowry M. “Larry” Stoops, who for years single-handedly raised all of the athletic scholarship money for the Mountaineers, served as the traveling business manager.  This was an era before credit cards and Stoops always carried a great deal of cash to pay for the team’s hotel, restaurants, and other bills.  He was mugged and robbed Friday night before the game.  Any crime then was rare in Williamsburg.

 After a hard-fought 20-6 win, the WVU team was restless at the Newport News airport when the plane’s flight home was delayed.  The legendary William Dent “Bill” Evans, editor of The Fairmont Times, was on the phone with his office because there had been a coal mine explosion.  Before the takeoff, Coach Art “Pappy” Lewis walked up the aisle to Sam Huff and said, “There’s been an explosion in Jameson Number Nine.  The pilots are in contact with everyone at home and we’ll let you know when we hear anything.”  If the tragedy had happened one hour earlier, Huff would have been the only surviving male on either side of his family.  He grew up in the mine’s company town.

The “Iron Indians” finished with a 5-4-1 record and didn’t have another winning season until 12 years later when Marv Levy was head coach.  Except for a 13-10 upset by Pitt in Morgantown, WVU had a perfect record and was ranked 12th by AP.

Under “Pappy” Lewis the Mountaineers dominated the Southern Conference in wins and individual and team honors.  In 1955 W&M lost 39-13 in Morgantown against a very strong Mountaineer team that was undefeated until late season injuries cost it losses to Pitt and Syracuse.  WVU continued as conference champions and was ranked 19th by AP.  The team had exceptional talent.  Fred Wyant became the backup quarterback for the Washington Redskins for several years before finishing his career in the Canadian Football League.  For 27 years he was one of the NFL’s leading officials with 19 of those as a referee.  

 Both tackles – Sam Huff and Bruce Bosley – were consensus All-Americans.  Huff became a New York Giant and one of pro football’s greatest linebackers.  He has been named to every possible Hall of Fame.  Bosley became an All-Pro center for the San Francisco 49ers, a successful businessman, generous philanthropist and was elected to the California State Legislature.  John Brodie says having Bosley in front of him was the reason he was the NFL’s MVP in 1970.  WVU retired Huff’s number but has not yet honored Bosley.

Halfback Joe Marconi played 10 years for the Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears.  Halfback Bob Moss, the fourth pick of the Cleveland Browns, opted for a career as a U.S. Navy pilot.  After being on opposite sides of the line, W&M running back Bob Elzey and Moss united in 1958 in Pensacola.  Following several tours flying missions off a carrier during the Vietnam conflict, Elzey became Moss’ assistant coach for the naval air station team.  When Moss was assigned combat duty, Elzey succeeded him and with Roger Staubach as his quarterback went undefeated.

 Others who competed in 1955 and on subsequent teams and who excelled in the NFL included Mountaineers’ guard Chuck Howley with the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys and fullback Larry Krutko with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  W&M’s Charlie Sumner played defensive safety for eight years with the Bears and Minnesota Vikings before becoming the NFL’s #1 defensive coordinator.  His more than 30 years coaching included two Super Bowl Championships with the Oakland Raiders.

While Huff was a consensus All-American, he only made second team All-Southern Conference.  And, he has never let me forget it.  Nearly the entire WVU starting team was all-conference, but W&M’s Jerry Sazio was chosen by the sports writers over Huff.  Sazio was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals but for $500 more signed with the Hamilton (Ontario) Tiger Cats and played several years in Canada.

 After the 1955 season, WVU would not again be ranked in the top 20 until the 1969 team, coached by Jim Carlen, was picked #17.  WVU continued its dominance in the conference and over W&M.  In 1957 WVU shutout W&M 19-0 and it was a winless season for the Indians who finished 0-9-1.  However, W&M’s Walt Brodie was named to AP’s second team All-America, believed to be the highest honor given to a player on a team that never won a game.  Chuck Howley was named to the Williamson Rating System’s third team.  This was before there was the proliferation of All-America teams like today with one for offense, one for defense, another for special teams, another for whatever, and with anybody and everyone naming a team.   

 Howley was the #1 draft choice by the Chicago Bears and finished his career with 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, twice leading Tom Landry’s “Doomsday Defense” to the Super Bowl.  In 1971 he was MVP of Super Bowl V even though the Cowboys lost 16-13 to the Colts.  Howley also is the only WVU athlete to letter in five sports – football, track, wrestling, gymnastics and swimming-diving.  Other Mountaineers drafted in 1958 included Larry Krutko, Joe Nicely, Mickey Trimarki and Bill Chancey.

 W&M’s Larry Peccatiello, who played in the 1955, 1956 and 1967 games followed Sumner as one of pro football’s leading defensive coordinators.  During his three decades as an NFL coach he won three Super Bowl rings during his 12 years with the Washington Redskins.  He and Sam Huff became friends when they were together with the Redskins.  Former teammates Peccatiello and Charlie Sumner went head-to-head in Super Bowl XVIII which the Raiders won 38-9.  A leading weekly sports magazine credited Sumner’s defensive strategy for the victory.

 In 1966, despite losing the opening game in Morgantown 24-13, the Indian team of Coach Marv Levy ended the season tied with East Carolina for the Southern Conference Championship.  Both W&M and ECTC finished with 4-0-1 records compared to 3-0-1 for Carlen’s WVU.  The next season Levy’s W&M team and the Mountaineers tied 16-16.  

 In 1968 the Mountaineers dropped out of the Southern Conference.  W&M won the Southern Conference Championship again in 1970 and a trip to the Tangerine Bowl with a team coached by Lou Holtz, but lost to WVU and legendary coach Bobby Bowden 43-7 in Morgantown.  Holtz and Bowden met again the following year in Williamsburg with WVU winning 28-23.  The final game of the home-and-home series was a WVU victory 49-34 in Morgantown in 1972.  Bowden, who has the most career wins and bowl game wins of any Division 1 coach, soon will be in the Hall of Fame.

 Saturday’s game will be a Morgantown homecoming for Steve Cole, W&M’s Associate Athletic Director for Internal Operations.  He graduated from WVU in 1976 with a degree in physical education and athletic training and worked with WVU’s legendary Albert C. “Whitey” Gwynne.  Cole has been with W&M for more than 30 years and in 2006 he was named the College/University National Athletic Trainer of the Year.  Gwynne was given the same honor years earlier.

 The late William “Bill” Stewart, one of WVU’s all-time winningest football coaches, was Jimmye Laycock’s offensive line coach at W&M from 1981-1983.  When he was named head coach at VMI in 1994, Stewart hired Mike Tomlin, who had just graduated from W&M, to be his assistant coach for receivers.  In 2009 when the Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals 27-23, Tomlin became the youngest coach ever to win a Super Bowl.  He still owns several W&M records for pass receiving.  The two remained very close until Stewart’s death.

Growing up in Charleston I regularly read sports columns by A. L. “Shorty” Hardman in The Gazette and listened to Jack Fleming broadcast the Mountaineer basketball games.  I never dreamed that a few years later I would be working with them.

 During the 1980s the Indians nickname for the W&M athletic teams was phased out in favor of the Tribe.  Established in 1693, the college once had a school that taught Native Americans, including many from the tribe of Pocahontas.  Five years ago the NCAA’s political correctness committee forced the school to remove two yellow feathers from its logo because it considered them “offensive.”  However, the always controversial and contradictory NCAA continues to allow both Florida State and the University of Utah to have Indian mascots and nicknames.


The Game Results

1954 *WVU 20, W&M 6

1955*@WVU 39, W&M 13

1956*WVU 20, W&M 13

1957@WVU 19, W&M 0

1958*WVU 56, W&M 6

1962@WVU 28, W&M 13

1963  WVU 20, W&M 16

1964*@WVU 24, W&M 14

1965*WVU 34, W&M 14

1966  @WVU 24, *W&M 13                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           1967*WVU 16, W&M 16 Tie

1968WVU 20, W&M 0 (Tobacco Bowl, Richmond, Va.)

1969WVU 31. W&M 0

1970@WVU 43, *W&M 7 

1971WVU 28, W&M 23

1972@WVU 49, W&M 34

* Denotes Southern Conference Champion


Rene A. Henry was born in Charleston and graduated from William & Mary where he was Sports Information Director from 1952-1953.  He was Sports Information Director for WVU from 1954-1956 where he also did graduate work in marketing.  In 2010 the W&M Alumni Association presented him with its highest honor, the Alumni Medallion.  Henry also is a Lifetime Olde Gold Alumnus of WVU.  He is the author of nine books including “The Iron Indians” about the 1953 W&M football team.


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