Hometown: Plum, PA
Record: 42-9, Bowl Record: 4-0 including two BCS wins
A kicker? Yes Mountaineer fans, Pat McAfee is the first kicker of the countdown. I like many fans tend to take kickers/punters for granted. Yet they are integral to the success of any great team. Without the play of Pat McAfee, the Mountaineers would not have been able to win two BCS bowls in three seasons. When you look at his entire body of work, he was a clutch kicker and a tremendous punter. Some might point to some of his key misses, especially against Pitt in 2007, but on the whole, he was quite accurate. He was also quite adept at pinning opponents deep in their own end with precise punting (something WVU seriously lacked this past season). When McAfee finished his career in 2008, he had become West Virginia’s all-time leading scorer. That alone is worthy of a spot in this countdown. McAfee also collected All-Big East, All-America, Lou Groza Award finalist, and Ray Guy Award finalist honors for his collegiate work. He now plays for the Indianapolis Colts and was really the star performer for the Colts last season as he punted far more often than the Colts converted a third down. I think McAfee will have a long professional career, so long as he stays out of the city canal system.
Memorable Game: Before McAfee was known for his antics off the field, he was known for his precision kicking in big games for WVU. His kicking ability was showcased in the 2006 regular season finale against Rutgers. West Virginia had seen their hopes for a BCS bowl game evaporate in the loss to Louisville a few weeks earlier and now the 15th ranked Mountaineers would have to take down a very good Rutgers team without Pat White, who was sidelined with an injury. Rutgers, ranked 13th, would earn a BCS win if they could just beat the team they had lost the previous 11 match-ups. The Scarlet Knights would jump out to an early 10-6 lead, holding that margin going into half time. Jarrett Brown would lead the Mountaineers back, taking a 20-10 lead in the 3rd quarter. Mike Teel answered with some of his own fireworks, giving Rutgers a 23-20 lead late in the 4th quarter. Pat McAfee, who had already made two field goals and two extra points, was called on to tie the game with under a minute left. His 30 yard field goal sent the game into overtime. In the first overtime, he and Ito traded field goals, sending the game to double overtime. After trading touchdowns in the second overtime, the game moved to triple overtime. West Virginia scored a touchdown and two point conversion that Rutgers answered with their own touchdown. The Scarlet Knights could not complete a pass for the two point conversion, sealing a dramatic 41-39 win for the Mountaineers.
Competition: Many fans were probably hoping to see a “skill player” such as FB Ron Lee, DB Fulton Walker, or the big punishing runner Wes Ours. While all of these Mountaineer players are great in their own right, I could not consciously pass up on West Virginia’s all-time leading scorer. That is an impressive accomplishment given all the outstanding rushers and passers that WVU has seen throughout the ages.
Teaser: Tomorrow we get back into “skill players” with a talented 1980s Mountaineer from Uniontown, PA, also home to General George C. Marshall. For those Mountaineer alumni who slept off their hangovers, rather than going to their history elective: GEN Marshall is the mastermind behind the Marshall Plan, providing economic relief of European nations following the conclusion of World War II. This plan also had the aim of preventing the spread of communism. As we all know, communism (at least in the Soviet sense) has failed, and America was able to win the Cold War without having to fight an actual battle against the USSR. Thank goodness, because I would not have wanted to become a wolverine.