Large 'Death Valley' crowd won't faze West Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No. 22 West Virginia will travel to "Death Valley" to take on No. 15 LSU on Saturday in front of what is expected to be the second-largest crowd the Mountaineers have encountered.
Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., is widely considered one of if not the most feared stadium to play for an opponent. LSU's record in the venue proves that true; the Tigers are 25-1 in Saturday night home games under coach Les Miles. The team is 31-6 overall in that span.
"This is Tiger Stadium ... 20 years from now, someone will turn to you and ask where you played football at, and if you say LSU the next question will be, 'What was it like?' " Miles said. "I think our team has really chosen to make that experience very special ... so when they have to answer that question years from now, they will answer it as it was unbelievable and spectacular."
West Virginia has just once before played in front of a crowd larger than 90,000. In 1991, the Mountaineers lost to Penn State in front of 96,445. In fact, the Mountaineers have never beaten an opponent in its history in front of more than 75,008 fans.
WVU coach Bill Stewart joked he may borrow a tiger from the Pittsburgh Zoo to try to simulate some of the atmosphere his team will experience Saturday, but his administration might not be keen on the idea. More seriously, though, Stewart said the team won't prepare much differently for this weekend's game. WVU pumped music into its indoor practice facility Tuesday to try to prepare for the crowd noise.
"It is southern hospitality at its best. When you go into Auburn or any other SEC school, they do it right. It is a good trip," Stewart said. "Football is important to those people. I look at this trip as a challenge, but we are just going down to play ball. ... We're not going down there just for the bus ride."
West Virginia does have experience playing in SEC stadiums. The Mountaineers took on Auburn last year at Jordan-Hare Stadium in a 41-30 loss.
In that game, then-starting quarterback Jarrett Brown was injured and forced then-true freshman quarterback Geno Smith into the game.
Smith said that experience will be useful when playing in front of 92,400 fans at Tiger Stadium.
"I didn't get major playing time against Auburn, but just having that experience will help me," Smith said.
The Mountaineers are happy to take an underdog role heading into Saturday's game. That's a spot in which the WVU program has flourished.
"We like shutting people up and closing their mouths by quieting the crowd," WVU fullback Ryan Clarke said. "Being underdogs heading into this game just gives us a boost."