Big 12 football: After a big win, West Virginia takes its game to a bigger stage
One of the monumental victories in school history converges with elevation to a high-profile conference. It's a perfect storm for coach Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineers.
The last time the West Virginia Mountaineers played a football game, they won. By 33 points. In the Orange Bowl.
The next time the Mountaineers play a football game, they will do so as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
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Berry Tramel's six-part series on the Big 12's newcomers:
— West Virginia pride
— West Virginia football
— West Virginia basketball
— TCU pride
— TCU basketball
— TCU football
Located: Morgantown, W.Va. (metro population 129,709)
Conference history: Independent 1891-1924, 1928-49, 1968-90; West Virginia Conference 1925-27; Southern Conference 1950-67; Big East 1991-2011.
One of the monumental victories in school history converges with elevation to a high-profile conference.
Can anyone say perfect storm?
Jed Drenning can. “It's unlike anything we've seen,” said the sideline reporter for West Virginia's radio network. “It really is the perfect storm of events for fans.
“Under ordinary circumstances, Big 12 or not, the fans would be lathered up. But throw the Big 12 in as well, with some of the biggest brands in the game …”
Not since John Denver penned “misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye” has West Virginia been so excited.
“There's a buzz,” admitted West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen. “We're not talking about it, but from a fan base, yes, we're getting hammered by it.”
For good reason. Few schools mean more to their state than does WVU.
Nebraska. Arkansas. West Virginia. What other states, void of major league sports, rally around one institution in such a manner?
“We're a fairly small state, 1.8 million,” said athletic director Oliver Luck, a star Mountaineer quarterback in the 1980s. “That's probably the population of Oklahoma City nowadays.
“We're a relatively poor state, Appalachia. People still living up in the hollers. But there's enormous pride in the state. It goes back to Bobby Bowden (who coached West Virginia in the 1970s). We punch above our weight. We love being an underdog.”
Tell us about it. The Mountaineers twice have waxed the Sooners as heavy underdogs, 41-27 in 1982 and 48-28 five seasons ago in the Fiesta Bowl.
Which is why you'll see blue and gold dominate the state, whether you're in a bank in Wheeling or a gas station in Beverly or the capitol in Charleston. The Mountaineers unite the state.
“It's the only show in town,” Drenning said.