What do you do in Morgantown, W. Va.? Well, you can try to get out of it, but there aren't too many flights a day from Morgantown Municipal Airport. So why not stick around and sample some of the town's tourist attractions, like the glass factory where Luci Johnson bought a lot of stuff before she was married, or a few of the local coal mines? If it happens to be a Friday evening in the fall, head over to Mountaineer Field and join the "thuse." A thuse is a rally—short for enthusiasm, see—and these days, what with the Mountaineers of West Virginia winning all the time, a good thuse will draw as many as 10,000 kids, as before the Pitt game last year. Not like the old days when, even though the team was winning, pep rallies drew only 200 or so loyal rooters. That was before Coach Jim Carlen came to town.
It was Carlen as much as anyone who turned West Virginia from a basketball school—Jerry West, Hot Rod Hundley—into a football school. He arrived in 1966, and in three years he made the Mountaineers a power. Last year the team was 10-1, including a victory over South Carolina in the Peach Bowl. After that game Carlen announced that he would not trade his backfield for anyone's—not even for that of Texas, which is understandable since the backfield gained 356 yards.
Now Carlen himself has gone to Texas—Texas Tech—and his assistant, Bobby Bowden, is in charge. Bowden was head offensive coach, so his appointment as head coach is fitting. "There's room for improvement," he said when he took over, meaning he hopes his Mountaineers can go through the season undefeated.
Fortunately for Bowden, his backfield is around to help. Mike Sherwood, or "Cool Hand Mike," the quarterback, passed less than half as much as he did the year before because the Mountaineers' running attack was so strong. "He's a great passer," says Bowden. "We'd be foolish not to use him more this year."
Fullback Jim Braxton could have played pro baseball but wanted to go to college and had heard, via a cousin who had been a member of the West Virginia track team, how well blacks are treated at Morgantown. Braxton is more than just a running back (843 yards in 199 carries with 12 touchdowns and a 13th on a reception). He is also the place-kicker, and last year had three field goals and 26 (of 30) extra points.
Bob (Punch) Gresham, the tailback from Yukon (W. Va.) Big Creek High, set a Mountaineer single-season rushing record with 1,155 yards. Halfback Eddie Williams was a reserve all last season until the bowl game, when he proved to be the peachiest person on the field, gaining 208 yards. Which is why Bowden, like Carlen, claims that he " 'would not trade the potential of our backfield with anybody. It has the potential to be the best in the country." In case a defense does figure out how to stop them, he hastily adds, "I want to emphasize potential."
In West Virginia, where potential often decides to move elsewhere, it's nice to see that the only moves the Mountaineers are making are on the field.