Morgantown, W.V. – Saturday afternoon may not be the official Homecoming game for the Mountaineers, but the game is in many ways a homecoming. It is the first game of the season, including the home opener for West Virginia. It is the first game for the freshman class, it is the last first home game for the rising seniors. Coach Neal Brown’s first official game in Morgantown.
It is a homecoming for the James Madison head coach, Curt Cignetti.
Name sound familiar? It should. Coach Cignetti is making his James Madison head coaching debut Saturday on a field he knows well. Coach Cignetti is the son of former West Virginia head coach Frank Cignetti, Sr.
Coach Cignetti of James Madison has a rich history with West Virginia football and will be well-attuned to the sites and sounds within Milan Puskar, and Morgantown. Cignetti has spent years of his life engrained in West Virginia sports as the son of the former offensive coordinator-turned head coach, and then suiting up as a Mountaineer quarterback; now the journey comes full circle as he leads the opponents in through the visitors side of the stadium Saturday.
West Virginia football games have long had the air of a homecoming. For being the State’s team, many travel hundreds of miles, hours of highway time to get to Morgantown in time to hear that musket fired. Fans pack in shoulder to shoulder ready to watch their team fight for victory, down t the last seconds.
None of this is new to Coach Cignetti.
He knows all to well the emotions that the Mountaineer faithful, on and off the field feel. In a way, Cignetti’s personal connection to West Virginia helps his Dukes leading up to kickoff. The head coach has personal experience as a fan, a family member and a player for West Virginia football. If his players have questions, Cignetti likely has the answers.
Cignetti brings with him to Morgantown arguably one of the best, if not the best team in the FCS going into the 2019 season. The Dukes are returning a large number of starters and many of those starters understand the importance of this game; not just in terms of wins and losses. Cignetti personally knows how West Virginia fans are all in for the entire 60 minutes of play, counting down to that end-game musket shot and the first few chords of “Country Roads.”
On Saturday, Cignetti is likely hoping to not hear the loved song, and likely hoping to not hear it for the first time in his life, or career. While the game is a return to a place, a home, the head coach spent years at; his focus is on what Mountaineer fans consider the ‘bad guys or the enemy.’ Mountaineer fans, players and faithfuls know that “Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer” is a constant, but for 60 minutes on Saturday, the Dukes head coach will have traded his Old Gold and Blue for a shade of purple and gold, crossing his fingers the new coach across the field doesn’t get his first chance at hearing “Country Roads.”