MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When the football schedule came out while West Virginia was in the Big East, one of the first things most did was scroll through to see which game got the primetime week day slot at Milan Puskar Stadium.
It wasn’t a matter of if, but when, the Mountaineers would play on a Thursday last decade, but those have been few and far between since joining the Big 12 in 2012.
Before today’s game against Baylor, the only previous Thursday night home game was against Kansas State in 2014. Many may have forgotten about that one — most recognizable for it being Clint Trickett’s swan song and the debut of Skyler Howard at quarterback for the Mountaineers.
It was a cold late-November game with West Virginia in a steady decline, so only 47,683 were at Milan Puskar that night.
The magic seems to be gone from what once was one of the most anticipated games of the season, and for good reason.
The Mountaineers were stellar in week night games at home before joining the Big 12. Beginning with Rich Rodriguez in 2003 and ending with Dana Holgorsen in 2011, they are 10-0 on Mountaineer Field in games Wednesday-Friday.
The most famous was on a crisp Wednesday night in 2003 against No. 3 Virginia Tech. WVU blew out the Hokies to the tune of 28-7, a game recognized by many as the “pepper spray game” and for having one of the most raucous crowds in stadium history, despite being about 6,000 below capacity.
Most of the 56,319 fans ended up on the field afterward — the last time fans were allowed to storm at a football game.
Every year followed with a win — in 2004, Rasheed Marshall threw two touchdown passes to Chris Henry in a 27-6 win over Syracuse.
The 2005 team went 2-0 on week nights night at home, throttling UConn 45-13 on a Wednesday and ended the home slate with a dominant win over Pitt by the same score on a frigid Thanksgiving night.
Fresh off a Sugar Bowl win, the 2006 squad needed a primetime-televised audience to showcase it was the real deal, which came Week 3 against Maryland on Thursday night. West Virginia knocked off the Terps, 45-24.
Later that season, though on the road, West Virginia faced Louisville in the highest-rated Thursday night ESPN game ever — WVU was No. 3 and the Cardinals were No. 5 — an eventual Louisville victory.
In 2007, the Mountaineers were supposed to have their revenge game against Louisville at home on a Thursday. WVU won 38-31, but it was somewhat anti-climactic because the Cardinals were having a disappointing season.
In 2008, West Virginia beat Auburn, in 2009, it beat Colorado, and in 2010, it beat South Florida — all on Thursdays.
The final week day win in the Big East was 21-20 on a Friday against Pitt in 2011.
Milan Puskar Stadium is averaging 56,448 fans per game in 11 weekday games since 2003 — the highest against Louisville in 2007 (60,992) and lowest against Kansas State in 2014 (47,683).