Here are my thoughts for West Virginia University football fans everywhere, and especially those in attendance at Milan Puskar and other Big 12 Conference stadiums: a) be patient, b) leave your expressions of displeasure (aka Boo Birds) in the Blue Lot and c) be happy it’s not Rutgers and Connecticut anymore.
A) Be Patient
The Mountaineers are in the thick of high-octane college football this 2012 season. West Virginia's schedule is therefore a bear on wheels week after week after week. It’s not, for example, going to be Big East easy to host Baylor on Saturday, September 29, fly to Austin to take on Texas on the following Saturday, October 6, then fly back to Lubbock for the Saturday, October 13 meeting with Texas Tech.
(Saturday. Saturday. It’s so nice not to play on Thursday.)
Consider this Fab Five: beginning Saturday, October 20, it’s Kansas State in Morgantown, then TCU in Morgantown, then a trip to Oklahoma State, then a hearty welcome to town for Oklahoma, then visiting Ames, Iowa, six days later to meet Iowa State on what will assuredly be the frozen Great Plains.
WVU isn't playing basketball schools any more. This isn't Madison Square Garden. Be patient.
B) Do Not Boo The Mountaineers
Please. That’s so low class, no class. That’s so Big East. There is nothing wrong with your team giving up a couple of touchdowns to, say, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, a 6'5" Pat White with an arm and a lot of guts. Klein makes Cincinnati’s Tony Pike look like, well, a piker. And, K-State’s signal-caller is just one of many stars in the Big 12.
Boo the other team? By all means, let the other team have it, and be as creative as your date/boyfriend/husband, or your father, will allow.
Give West Virginia a chance. The Mountaineers are playing a different game now. Dana Holgorsen’s Air Raid may score and score again, but the Big 12 isn’t the Atlantic Coast Conference. Even Kansas doesn’t throw in the towel at halftime.
WVU fans are going to watch their boys give up some points and watch games go down to the wire. It wouldn’t shock me if every game is decided in the final minutes.
You’re going to see some wins and a few losses. Do not boo the Mountaineers. It’s childish. Look at K-State again. They compiled a 10-3 season in 2011. I know. I know. But, play a Big East schedule, lose to Louisville and Syracuse, endure Marshall in the Friends of Coal Bowl and go 10-3, and it’s not the same. Fans, you have to get ready for some real football. Be happy you don’t have to sit through another hollow Heinz Field.
C) Be Happy It's Not Rutgers and Connecticut Anymore
That brings me to Item C. I’d rather lose in overtime to Texas Tech on the road than beat Pittsburgh anywhere at any time. I’m not kidding. This is 2012. It’s not 1975 or 1983 or 1993 or, thankfully, it’s not 2007.
Sad to say, the Backyard Brawl is no more. It was fun and exciting, but we have moved on. There’s no going back. And why should we? WVU athletic director Oliver Luck says he wants to jump-start the rivalry in the future, but, in my opinion, he’s got bigger and better things going on.
So, what’s this loss to Texas Tech, you may ask? Okay, maybe I exaggerated to make a point. Maybe I should have said Texas. Think about this, though: If you told me right now that the 2012 edition of West Virginia football will end up 7-2 in the Big 12, not win the conference championship, may be seen in a Bowl Championship Series game but assuredly will have the chance to get a Cotton Bowl bid, I’d take it. I’d take that right now, because that’s not bad—even good—and that’s the way I think it could end up.
Here are my predictions:
Mountaineers fans will walk out of Milan Puskar almost blue in the face from holding their collective breaths as Holgorsen’s offense scores last against Baylor. The Bears have a defense this year that is benefiting from the 13 character-building games last year, and they will frustrate WVU in their own backyard.
The Longhorns have two defensive ends, Alex Okafor and Jefferson Jeffcoat, and Kenny Vaccaro, a blazing-fast safety, who will all be NFL first-rounders in 2013. They will make Geno Smith’s afternoon in Austin absolutely miserable. The one good thing about the Texas loss is the offensive coaches, especially the line coach, will have hours of instructional video.
West Virginia will take out its frustrations on the Red Raiders in Lubbock the next weekend. It’s a perfect storm for the Mountaineers. The home team will be suffering from dropping a close one to visiting Oklahoma the previous weekend, as WVU's Air Attack will finally break loose from a scrappy, veteran Texas Tech defense to set a four-alarm fire on the scoreboard.
Kansas State and Texas Christian
Bill Snyder of Kansas State and Gary Patterson of TCU are among the best coaches, if not the best coaches, in all of college football. They both consistently get more out of less.
Patterson has consistently built a defense by recruiting, among others, second-tier high school running backs from the state of Texas and turning them into good major college defensive ends and linebackers. Snyder retired in 2005 after an outstanding career with the Wildcats, had the stadium named for him, then returned in 2009 to preserve the program, which has happened.
WVU will split these two. I see Holgorsen’s men losing to K-State, not being able to meet the challenges Collin Klein presents. West Virginia will drop to 2-2 in the league and will spend the two weeks resting for TCU while Mountaineers fans within range will light up the radio call-in boards with suggestions for Dana Holgorsen’s replacement, including the guy who always swears Nick Saban was in Morgantown in December of 2007.
I’ll discuss West Virginia’s prospects for the games with TCU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas in a later article.