MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — John Denver's nostalgic ballad echoes throughout the stadium during cherished pre- and post-game traditions at Mountaineer Field.
The West Virginia marching band performs “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” before each game, and after Mountaineer home wins, thousands of fans proudly sing along while the classic folk song blares from the stadium sound system.
“Almost heaven, West Virginia,” begins the song, praising the state's beautiful, mountainous terrain.
Hours after wistfully singing of their state's beauty, though, many West Virginia fans have a reputation for setting fire to it.
The Big 12 isn't in Nebraska anymore.
West Virginia University sits in Morgantown, a college football outpost nearly 800 miles from its closest Big 12 bedfellow. The terrain, traditions and stadium are all foreign to Oklahoma, which plays its first-ever game at West Virginia on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“I know their fans are really hostile ... I've heard stories about burned mattresses and all that stuff,” said OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who, like virtually every Sooner coach or player, has never been to Morgantown.
“It'll be fun to play there. It's always fun to play in different places. They're a new part of the league now; we'll be going up there every other year, and I'm looking forward to it.”
West Virginia was thrilled to escape the Big East Conference, where it was viewed nationally as having little-to-no serious competition, and join the Big 12.
Morgantown Mayor and lifelong resident Jim Manilla views the conference realignment as an opportunity to showcase the city he loves.
“It's a very nice place to live,” Manilla said. “The city has talked about not just making a really good first impression, but a lasting impression.”