MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Mountaineer Field’s reputation for rowdiness precedes it, and tonight, when the iconic Texas Longhorns make their maiden visit, the cocktail of noise, 90-proof and disorderly conduct could create a memorable atmosphere.
“I’m just hoping they don’t burn the stadium down before the game,” joked a player from the home team, cornerback Icky Banks.
To be clear, Banks wasn’t daring the pyro-punks out there to turn Milan Puskar into a burning love seat (out-of-state kids, we’re profiling at you). No. 34 was simply bragging that the energy put out by 60,000 at WVU carries more wattage than the 100,000-plus generated last year in Austin.
“In Morgantown, the fans SHOW UP for those night games. Nothing like it—I don’t care what anybody says.”
During this mediocre season, night games at West Virginia have been a rarity. In fact, this is the very first. At 4-5 overall, and 2-4 in the Big 12, West Virginia simply hasn’t been deemed prime time-worthy. So the UT game arrives on a wave of surging anticipation and all-day tailgating that could have Texas walking into a stadium seemingly hopped up on Red Bull.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be crazy,” said senior center Pat Eger. “I’m hoping the student section’s going to fill up and be there for the start of the game. Haven’t seen it yet this year.”
If that sounds like Eger was calling out his fellow classmates, he sort of was.
“I’ve been in Morgantown for games where the student section has just been nuts, just vital to being our 12th man and wreaking havoc on those opposing teams,” he said. “When that thing fills up at the start of the game and the students stay the whole game, it’s huge for us. The atmosphere, it just heightens it to another level.”
Speaking of another level: Must WVU play on one in order to upset Texas?
As neat as UT’s five-game reclamation sounds, this isn’t the Vince Young-led bunch that snatched a crystal football or the Colt McCoy-led bunch that flirted with one. These 2013 Longhorns, lest we forget, needed a halftime Hail Mary and a last-second eyes-wide-shut officiating moment to eke past 1-7 Iowa State. Even with a win over Oklahoma, the combined record of the six teams UT has beaten this season is 18-33.
Yes, their recruiting classes are the envy of other Big 12 schools, but no player on the roster was a contributor the last time Texas sniffed a league championship. You wonder, on a chilly, raucous night in Morgantown, whether the Longhorns will maintain their current machismo or revert back to the panicky persona they showed in losses to BYU and Ole Miss.
Not to label this Texas team a fraud, but neither is it the unbeaten Big 12 champion being projected.
Pick: West Virginia 27-24
Rating the rest of the weekend’s Big 12 games:
1. Kansas State 31, Texas Tech 28: (Red Raiders -2.5) The Wildcats’ offense is growing more efficient at the same time Tech’s defense is being gashed.
2. Oklahoma State 45, Kansas 10: (Cowboys -30.5) The final score could be worse, but ain’t that always the case in a game against KU?
3. TCU 24, Iowa State 20: (Frogs -7) The Cyclones have seven losses, excluding themselves from the bowl chase, and TCU is on the verge of elimination as well.