Probably the biggest game of the 2011 football season for the West Virginia Mountaineers is a September 24th matchup with the Louisiana State Tigers in Morgantown, WV. This will mark the first time in history that the LSU football team has traveled to the Mountain State and only the second ever meeting against West Virginia.
In 2010 WVU traveled to Baton Rouge and lost 14-20 in a contest that it was capable of winning, however they did not capitalize on opportunities. The 2010 game showcased special teams and defense more than offense; both teams combined for an unimpressive 407 yards of total offense and only three offensive touchdowns (one rushing by LSU, and two passing by WVU).
Had it not been for Patrick Peterson's 60 yard punt return for a touchdown, WVU could very well have pulled out the victory. The good news for West Virginia fans this season is Peterson has entered the NFL draft.
Now let's look at what else has changed since last season for the Bengals and Mounties.
Both LSU and WVU now have new offensive coordinators. LSU hired Steve Kragthorpe, the former head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, and WVU picked up Dana Holgorsen, who was the offensive coordinator for Oklahoma State last season. Holgorsen has spent the past several years installing and managing some of the best offenses in the country at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State. Kragthorpe was let go as Louisville's head coach after three seasons and spent some of 2010 as the Texas A&M wide receivers coach before resigning to take care of personal family issues.
The venue is now in Morgantown, and like LSU the Mountaineers play very well on home turf. Over the past eight years LSU is ranked ninth in the country in home winning percentage at .862% (50-8) while WVU is right there with them at tenth with .846% (44-8). Louisiana State's crowd no doubt affected the way West Virginia played last year, the noise there can easily cause confusion and create mistakes by even the most veteran visiting team, however this year they wont have that advantage. Tiger Stadium has a capacity of 92,400 while Milan Puskar Stadium has a capacity of 60,000 a difference of 32,400 screaming fans, however now the noise will be on the Mountaineers side
Some major things that have not changed since last season are the starting quarterbacks and head coaching. Les Miles and Bill Stewart are still calling the shots while Jordan Jefferson and Geno Smith are still at the helms of their perspective offenses. Stewart as well as Miles have received some "heat" for their decision making on the field, however Miles it should be said is blessed with something special. Call it what you want luck, magic, voodoo or God–the man can win some football games somehow. Stewart on the other hand has not been blessed with the same kind of divine intervention. Stewart has essentially all but been replaced in 2011 with Holgorsen being named head coach in waiting. Holgorsen assumes command in 2012, Stewart will be give a position in the WVU Athletic Department at that time.
Can WVU beat LSU in 2011?
2010 statistics for LSU QB Jordan Jefferson
CMP 118 ATT 209 YDS 1411 CMP% 56.5 YPA 6.75 LNG 75 TD 7 INT 10 SACK 18 RATING 114.65
2010 statistics for WVU QB Geno Smith
CMP 241 ATT 372 YDS 2763 CMP% 64.8 YPA 7.43 LNG 71 TD 24 INT 7 SACK 28 RATING 144.70
Not only will this be a big game for the two teams playing, it will be one of the most anticipated non-conference games of the 2011 season for the entire country. Rivals has rated this game eighth on a list of the top 12 games to watch in 2011. LSU it should also be mentioned has stake in the number one non-conference game on the list with a September 3rd matchup against the Oregon Ducks.
When September 24th comes around WVU will be coming off of its first non-conference road game against Maryland the week prior and three of its first four games are at home against Marshall, Norfolk State and LSU.
LSU will be coming off of its second road game against Mississippi State the week prior to traveling to West Virginia, three of the Tigers first four games of 2011 are away games against Oregon, Mississippi State and WVU. They also play Northwestern State at home the week following the Oregon game.
If there are any LSU fans traveling to Morgantown that are interested in throwing together a tailgate with some Mountaineer fans feel free to comment or message me. I had the opportunity and privilege of traveling to Baton Rouge last season and thoroughly enjoyed myself, LSU fans treated us good and i would like to return the favor and drink some beer.