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Seniors were key in 1988

May 31, 2012

MORGANTOWN - John Stroia was not surprised that West Virginia finished 11-0 in 1988 and played Notre Dame for the National football Championship.

"We had 28 seniors on that team and nearly all of us were together four year," the standout 6-foot-3, 262-pound offensive guard recalled recently." That was a big key to our success. It made a difference."

So did injuries to three WVU starters in that 34-21 loss to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl showdown.

Not only did quarterback Major Harris injure his shoulder on the game's third offensive play, but both Stroia and All-America offensive tackle Rick Philips got hurt early.

"I suffered a concussion and missed the last three quarters," said Stroia, an Academic All-America second-team selection.

That start-studded 1988 team, coached by Hall of Famer Don Nehlen, might well have been the best in West Virginia's football history. The Mountaineers won the Lambert Trophy, symbolic of Eastern Supremacy, and finished with a final ranking of No. 5 in the National polls.

"The 1993 team (which also went 11-0) was a great team, too," Stroia noted.

That team also won the Lambert Trophy and finished sixth and seventh in the final rankings.

But the 1988 team was more explosive. It scored 50 or more points in five games.

Here's what Coach Nehlen said of Stroia and center Kevin Koken in his book "Tales from the West Virginia Sidelines."

"Of course, 1988 was a great season, and that was reflected in our captains Koken and Stroia were both Ohio guys and offensive linemen.

"I don't think we've ever had two better young men in our program, and they were terrific leaders."

Stroia said, "I would not have traded the world for my four years in West Virginia. It was really a great experience for me.

"I have a lot of respect for Coach Nehlen. He's still one of my favorite people. He was a great man and coach in all respects. He has class."

Stroia, who received his bachelor's degree in finance in 1989, has been working for Willbut Co. for three months in manufacturing telescopic masts.

"Before that, I was with Diebolt for 21 years," he explained. "We made banking cash machines and also were involved in building security systems."

John and wife Eloise, a Bowling Green graduate, have been married nearly 20 years. They have three children: Maria, Tim and Eleanor.

Tim is competing in baseball and cross country and Maria is in cross country.



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