Simple Gifts

The days between Christmas and New Years are always bittersweet for me. I love Christmas, so on the 26th, it's a bit of a bummer when it's in the rearview, but at the same time, there's New Year's to look forward to. I'm also always cheered up by asking answering my favorite post-holiday question: "What did you get?"

Oh, I got a lot. And this year, most of my favorite gifts came early. But I still have one on the way.

On October 2nd, I got an image permanently burned into my mind of Miami safety Brandon Meriweather being abused, annihilated, and embarrassed by Quincy Wilson, a man who refused to end up anywhere but the endzone. On that same night, I got a feeling of pride in Mountaineer football, an appreciation of the work ethic and heart that our guys have, and a sense of hope that the "4" in "1-4" would never have the chance to make it to a 5.

On October 22nd, I got an entire day of pure joy. From the time in the afternoon that a rainbow arched over Mountaineer Field, never did I have a doubt that the Mountaineers would be unbeatable on that day. I got to see the 3rd-ranked team in the country fall apart when they ran into a team with whom they could not compete. I saw a head coach slap a player. I saw an entire team become addicted to personal foul penalties because that was the only thing they could do with any effectiveness on that night. I saw a better-disciplined, better-prepared West Virginia team dismantle a hated rival, and I got to share it with over 60,000 people, all bound by unbelievable passion and volume.

On November 15th, I saw the Mountaineer defense turn Rod Rutherford into a scared little girl, and I saw Quincy Wilson turn the Pittsburgh defense into a group of beaten men who wanted nothing more than to see 0:00 on the clock so their torment could end. I saw our offense do everything but announce that the next play would be a run, and I saw a defense that could do nothing to stop it. I saw John Pennington perform the Miracle on Don Nehlen Boulevard and make one of the best catches of the year.

Through the course of the year, I also got to see the emergence of two phenomenal athletes - two gifts that will keep on giving. Chris Henry and Pac Man Jones became bona fide playmakers before our eyes. Pac Man went toe-to-toe with Kellen Winslow for an entire night in Miami and did not give an inch. Pac Man gave us not only tremendous physical ability, but heart, a refusal to back down, and a knack for making big plays when they're needed most. Without Pac Man, a victory in Chestnut Hill may never have happened.

And without Chris Henry, a victory in Syracuse may never have happened. Even if Larry Fitzgerald makes the move to the NFL, the Big East will still be home to one of the nation's best wide receivers next year.

Big play ability? He leads the nation in yards per reception. When teams decided to stack the box against Quincy Wilson (a strategy that didn't always work - ask Walt Harris or Frank Beamer), Chris Henry made them pay.

In my stocking this year were also tight new all-blue uniforms. Maybe they just looked better at night, maybe anything would have looked good as we dominated teams who thought they were better than us, but when the Mountaineers rocked the all-blues, they were the freshest and cleanest looking team in all of college football.

Was it a bummer to get all of my best gifts early? Nah. Because the best gift is still on the way.

The Maryland Terrapins must have gone to the mall, crawled up on Santa's lap and asked for a beating this year. The Mountaineers will be playing the role of Santa's little helpers, and on January 1st, will suit up in Jacksonville and give the Terrapins everything they deserve.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Matt Darnell is the author and publisher of, and a frequent contributor to

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