Harken back to spring football drills.
In Morgantown, Dana Holgorsen was beginning his tenure as the new offensive coordinator for the West Virginia University football program, where he would serve under head coach Bill Stewart for a year before becoming Stewart's successor.
At Clemson, S.C., the Tigers were going through drills under head coach Dabo Swinney, who reportedly was facing a make-or-break season that would determine his future at the school.
Swinney was at or near the top of virtually every list of coaches that were on the "hot seat".
Fast forward to the present. Holgorsen, who was elevated to head coach following Stewart's controversial ouster, guided West Virginia to a 9-3 season and a share of the Big East Conference title. Thanks to the Big East tiebreaker rules, West Virginia -in all probability in its final year as a league member -was awarded the conference's automatic Bowl Championship Series bid and subsequently was selected to play in the Discover Orange Bowl, a first for the Mountaineers' program.
Meanwhile, Swinney -under pressure following a disappointing 6-7 season a year ago -righted Clemson's ship in a big way, leading the Tigers to a 10-3 record and the Atlantic Coast Conference title, thanks to a pair of wins over Virginia Tech, the latter in the ACC title game.
As a result, the Tigers also were invited to the Orange Bowl, the fourth time Clemson has participated in the game, but the first time since 1981.
This is an improbable pairing.
While there are those in 48 other states who probably think it's not a game worthy of the historic Orange Bowl, it's actually a great matchup and likely will lead to a highly-entertaining game that features two high-powered offenses.
Leading those high-powered offenses are a pair of top-notch quarterbacks. West Virginia junior Geno Smith, in his first year in Holgorsen's pass-first system, threw for 3,978 yards and 25 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Clemson signal-caller Tajh Boyd, who originally planned to sign with WVU and was the co-MVP of the prestigious US Army All-American Bowl, made the most of his first year as a starter, throwing for 3,578 yards and 31 TDs.
This game appears as even as the statistics of the two quarterbacks. In fact, when odds makers made the initial betting line on the game it ranged from even to Clemson being a 2-point favorite. Since that time, the Tigers have been favored by 3 or 3-1/2 points. In other words, this looks like a highly competitive game.
It will be WVU's third appearance in a BCS game in seven years.
In the other two, the Mountaineers also were underdogs. In the Jan. 2, 2006 Sugar Bowl against SEC champion Georgia -a game played in Atlanta due to the flooding in New Orleans -the Bulldogs were double-digit favorites.
But West Virginia took a stunning 28-0 lead and held on for a 38-35 win thanks to a fake punt on fourth and 6 near midfield with 1:26 to play. Phil Brady took the snap and ran for 10 yards and a victory-clinching first down in what has to be one of the best calls in bowl history.
Then came the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, again played on Jan. 2. West Virginia traveled to Arizona not only having lost its chance to play for the national championship thanks to a loss in its regular season finale against arch-rival Pittsburgh, but also witnessing the departure of head coach Rich Rodriguez following that setback.
The program was in turmoil. That's when athletics director Ed Pastilong asked Bill Stewart to take charge of game preparations and the rest is WVU history as the Mountaineers stunned 9-point favorite Oklahoma, 48-28, leading to Stewart's elevation as head coach.
So being an underdog is nothing new to West Virginia. As Holgorsen says, the Mountaineers play their best football when their backs are to the wall. And there's no doubt WVU's backs are more to the wall after Friday's news that starting running back Dustin Garrison is out, leaving West Virginia woefully short at running back.
If WVU indeed plays its best football, it will enjoy its third BCS win in seven seasons. Given that it took the Mountaineers more than 100 years to win their first major bowl game, that would be a remarkable feat.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org