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Virginia Tech West Virginia Football

West Virginia running back Leddie Brown rushes for a touchdown against Virginia Tech during Saturday’s game in Morgantown.

MORGANTOWN – Statistics are a big part of sports – the .300 batting average, the 1,000-yard rusher, the four-minute mile.

After West Virginia’s heart-stopping, 27-21 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday, the Mountaineers, practically to a man, were reciting a different stat – 6,195.

“I’m just glad to bring the [Black Diamond] Trophy back to Morgantown,” said WVU junior running back Leddie Brown, of the award that goes to the VT-WVU victor and the Mountaineers last won in 2003 – 6,195 days ago. “That was a big thing for us this week. At the beginning of the week, it was like 6,190 days, and coach [Neal] Brown kept counting it down – 6,191, 6,192 and today was the 6,195th day. And we brought it back to Morgantown, which was our main goal for this game.”

Rivals since their long before their days together in the defunct Big East, West Virginia now holds an all-time 29-23-2 all-time advantage against VT, but the Hokies had won the previous three games in this series – 31-24 in 2017 at FedEx Field, 34-17 in 2005 at Mountaineer Field, 19-13 in 2004 at Lane Stadium.

WVU’s last triumph had come at Mountaineer Field with a 28-7 result on Oct. 22, 2003 over No. 6 Virginia Tech. After residing in Blacksburg for the last 6,195 days, the Black Diamond Trophy now rests in Morgantown. There it will remain for at least the next 372 days until the old rivals meet again at Lane Stadium on Sept. 24, 2022.

“We knew that it was going to be a physical game and whoever ran the ball better was going to come out with the W and hold the trophy,” stated Brown.

West Virginia did win the ground battle, outgaining VT 180-106 in terms of rushing yards. Brown opened that attack with a bang, bursting through a big crack created by his offensive linemen, Zach Frazier and Doug Nester, a former Hokie who transferred to WVU in January, and streaking 80 yards for a touchdown on the Mountaineers’ second offensive play of the day.

It was the second-longest run of Brown’s four-year Mountaineer career, exceeded only by an 87-yarder against Kansas last season. For the afternoon, Brown ran for 161 yards on 19 carries. He’s only had one better game; that 2020 battering of Kansas when he gained 195 yards.

“Our scout team had given us that look all week in practice,” explained Brown of the 4-1 box VT employed on his long run. “It’s how we were supposed to run it with the double team (from Frazier and Nester) working up to the ‘backer.”

Once Leddie cleared the second level of the Tech defenders, there wasn’t another Hokie between him and the goal line.

“The only thing I’m thinking about at that moment is get to the end zone,” grinned Brown.

“No. 1 [VT defensive back Chamarri Conner] was chasing me. I looked up [at the north endzone videoboard] and saw him.”

Was he worried about Conner catching him?

“No. No!” Leddie repeated with a combination smirk and laugh.

It wasn’t all rose petals and daisies for the Mountaineers on Saturday, though.

WVU was leading 27-7 late in the third quarter, but 15th-ranked Virginia Tech quickly put two touchdowns on the board to narrow the margin to 27-21. West Virginia had a chance to chew up clock and grind its way to victory, but its run game bogged down and it turned the ball over twice in that time frame to the Hokies to aid their comeback effort.

“They were loading the box,” explained Brown of the VT defense, “but the way we run it, it doesn’t really matter who they put in the box. I have certain read keys I look at. On one of those [late game attempts], I slipped. It would have been a big run, but I slipped. They sent the nickel from the front side, so I tried to hit it backside, but I just lost my footing.

“I kept telling my o-line, ‘We just need a first down. We just need a first down.’”

WVU’s offense could not produce the knockout first down. Instead, it was the Mountaineer defense that had to step up and seal the win, stopping Tech’s four shots from inside the five-yard line with barely a minute left in the game and West Virginia clinging to a six-point lead.

WVU’s defense ultimately held, and that set off a celebration for Leddie, his teammates and most of the 60,222 in the stands. “I was like, ‘It’s over! Where’s the trophy at?’” smiled Brown.