(Story originally posted on SB Nation’s ISU site: Wide Right & Natty Lite.)
WRNL is proud to present nine weekly articles from Kagavi leading up to the official release of The Adventures of Robot Cy, a fictional 8-bit video game trailer that never was.
In a faraway futuristic time, college football has been taken over by robot mascots. Join Robot Cy as he travels through many thrilling levels to find out who is behind this nefarious plot!
Every week during the conference season, Kagavi will preview the ISU football game using this project as inspiration by asking what power ups could Robot Cy gain by defeating the other Big 12 robot mascots?
Just like that, the Cyclone squad will travel to Morgantown this weekend for the last clash of the 2015 football season. Last week, finally, FINALLY, the Kansas State Wildcats were headed for certain defeat before the necromancer Bill Snyder remembered his voodoo doll and pins. A brutal 90 seconds later, the curtain was unfortunately up on Paul Rhoads’ time at Iowa State. Robot Cy did manage to escape Manhattan with the Voodoo Skulls power up from Robot Willie, but that’s small consolation. Turning to the West Virginia Mountaineers, they beat ISU 37 – 24 last year in Ames–this sounds familiar–because ISU scored just 3 points after halftime. The year before was a thrilling 52 – 44 triple overtime victory, which saw ISU overcome the largest deficit in school history with 24 points in the fourth quarter.
But what if Robot Cy was facing off against Robot Mountaineer?
If Robot Mountaineer used the best parts of West Virginia football history to inspire a power up, what would it be? Let’s explore some West Virginia history.
Situated alongside the meandering Monongahela River, West Virginia University is one of the oldest universities in the Big 12, created in 1867 under the Morrill Act like so many other agricultural schools. The landmark Woodburn Circle on campus features three of WVU’s oldest buildings, including the fantastically styled Woodburn Hall, which wouldn’t look out of place in a Scooby-Doo haunted manor mystery. Football got an earlier start than fellow Big 12 schools with the first kickoff taking place in 1891.
Speaking of Morgantown, it’s about one hour south of Pittsburgh in a fairly isolated part of coal country full of caves and logging. Don Knotts and Lawrence Kasdan both grew up there and graduated from Morgantown High School. Kasdan is best known as the screenwriter for some obscure indie movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the southern part of the state, the largest diamond in North America was discovered in 1928 and dubbed the Punch Jones Diamond. This has nothing to do with WVU, but felt like mentioning it.
The Mountaineers have an impressive 720+ wins all time, which places them in the top 15 of all schools nationwide, ahead of historical powers such as Texas A&M, Pitt, Florida, Clemson, Minnesota, Michigan State, and yes, even Middle Tennessee. The longtime historical rivalry with Iowa State first started in 2012 and was quickly proclaimed the Riot Bowl by distinguished media members.
If there’s one player that represents the hilly Appalachian region, it must be Sam Huff. Hardscrabble, hard luck, beat up, Huff grew up in an actual coal mine camp near campus and played tackle for WVU, earning All-American honors in 1955. After initial consternation over a position for Huff in the NFL, the New York Giants settled on making him a middle linebacker in the earliest iteration of a 4 – 3 defense created by coordinator Tom Landry. One spectacular career later, Huff was enshrined in Canton in 1982. (Huff was also elected to the College Football Hall of Fame two years earlier.) We considered making a power up inspired by Huff: dangerous, feral, possibly a little bit rabid. This also presumably describes the current WVU coach, Dana Holgorsen.
Other than Huff, there have been a handful of West Virginia players and coaches elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. There’s Darryl Talley, one of the defensive leaders of the Buffalo Bills during their four Super Bowl appearances. In a prelude to today’s offenses, Major Harris became the first QB in NCAA history to pass for 5,000 yards and rush for 2,000 yards in his career from 1987 – 1989. Highlights of Harris look eerily like Seneca Wallace–scrambling through the defense, dancing to buy a few more seconds, laser passes while running in the opposite direction. Coach Bobby Bowden also cut his teeth at WVU with two bowl games in six seasons prior to taking the Florida State job. Elsewhere, Jerry West is probably the most famous overall athlete to come out of WVU.
John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” has been sung before each WVU game since 1972 and it is also played after victories. Morgantown is known for its wild party scene, highlighted by the sophisticated tradition of burning couches, usually after big victories, but there have been some heartbreaking losses.
On January 2, 1989, Major Harris led the undefeated WVU team into a highly anticipated Fiesta Bowl against undefeated Notre Dame. On the third play, Harris separated his shoulder and the Mountaineers fizzled in a 34 – 21 loss. A few years later, the 1993 season saw WVU undefeated and shooting for their first national championship again. The Florida Gators ended up whipping them in the Sugar Bowl 41 – 7.
In 2007, WVU had another shot at the national title going into their last game of the season, the 100th edition of the Backyard Brawl against Pitt. The loaded Mountaineers team had Steve Slaton, Pat White, Noel Devine, and Owen Schmitt, but couldn’t figure out a Pitt defense led by coordinator Paul Rhoads and fell 13 – 9. (That Pitt team also had a freshman running back named LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 148 yards and kept the WVU offense off the field for much of the game.)
Such tragic finishes seem to suggest WVU is simply a more accomplished version of ISU.
Thus, after this brief look at West Virginia history, it only seems appropriate that the power up for Robot Mountaineer should be a homage to riots, couch burnings, and devastating losses that need to be forgotten as quickly as possible.
The Country Fireballs power up allows Robot Cy to simply press the reset button by burning it all down and starting over. Did Oklahoma score 84 points in the first quarter? No worries, reset away and replay. Did the team suffer a devastating loss? No worries, just load up Country Fireballs and flame away, exercising extreme prejudice against plush furniture. It’s like it never happened. Besides, small brushfires are needed to clear away the deadwood so hope can spring eternal. If Robot Cy had access to this power up, what historical football (or basketball) seasons could have turned out much differently? Perhaps this power up should be held in reserve for the 2015-16 basketball season, lest a scaly dragon blindside the Cyclones again.
Are there any other possible power ups that would fit Robot Mountaineer? Share them in the comments!