Young WVU gets early road test at Oklahoma
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia travels to Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday for the first time since 1982 to face the Oklahoma Sooners in a game that could shed light on its lot in the Big 12.
The 1982 trip resulted in a rare Oklahoma loss at home under Barry Switzer, with WVU's Don Nehlen using quarterback Jeff Hostetler to lead the victory. But Oklahoma doesn't drop many decisions in what is one of those cathedrals to college football; current coach Bob Stoops has an 82-5 record at home over 15 years.
But this is the earliest Oklahoma has played a conference game.
This, of course, has led WVU coach Dana Holgorsen to be barraged with questions about whether he'd rather play the Sooners in the season's second week or, considering his is an inexperienced team, much later.
“Second week, 12th week, I don't know if it matters,” he said. “The truth of the matter is I'd like to play them never because they're pretty good.”
What Holgorsen does know from his time bouncing around the Southwest at places like Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State is that Oklahoma's stadium is an intimidating environment with the stands pressing down upon the field and nearly 85,000 hostile fans about to greet a really young team.
“It's a new experience for about 30 to 35 of our guys who will be traveling there, but we will not use that as an excuse,” Holgorsen said.
It is almost one of those you-have-to-be-there-to-know-what-it's-like things. Holgorsen spent part of his 2 p.m. team meeting Tuesday explaining exactly what it is like going to Norman, Okla.
“We'll do our best to let them know what to expect in Norman.”
And that is?
“The atmosphere is hostile. It's rowdy. It's loud. There's approximately 85,000 people, and they are about from here to here,” said Holgorsen pointing to an area about 5-feet wide, “on top of you. It's much like Oklahoma State was last year, right on top of you.
“I'll tell you, literally, the chairs are up against the wall and the people are right there. Is there a competitive disadvantage to it? No. It's just a distraction, and there's many distractions you have to be able to overcome on the road. That's just one of them.”
A year ago WVU got a look at one of the tough places to play when it traveled to Texas and pulled off an upset, but Holgorsen said that will do nothing to help his team get ready for this.
“Ultimately,” he said, “you have to have some guys who can block all that stuff out and go play football.”
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.