By Dave Morrison
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is trying mightily to not make Saturday’s nationally televised matchup with LSU any more than a regular game.
Even if it’s far from regular.
No. 16 WVU (3-0) and No. 2 LSU (3-0) meet at 8 p.m. Saturday in a game that will be shown nationwide on ABC.
The backdrop is anything but usual.
ESPN’s “College GameDay” will make its first appearance in Morgantown in the show’s 25-year history.
Former Mountaineer great Darryl Talley will be honored for his induction into the National Football Federation Hall of Fame with a luncheon today and also at the game.
And a record 17,000-plus students have requested tickets.
But Holgorsen isn’t focusing on that.
“They all count as one win,” Holgorsen said. “If you put that much into one, then it takes away from the others. You can be 4-0, lose the next one and be 4-1, or win this one and lose the next one, the record comes out the same. Teams that win championships have to have the ability to understand that and have the ability to be able to prepare each week the same way and put yourself in a position to understand what your opponent is doing and what it’s going to take to win the game.”
So, this nationally televised game is just another game?
“Parity is upon us,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve got a lot of teams on our schedule that are capable of beating us. Our job is to prepare the same way each week and try to get the win regardless of who it is.”
Shawne Austin made his first appearance of the season, and it was a mixed bag, said Holgorsen of the junior, who had six carries for 20 yards and converted two of four third-down opportunities (one was actually a fourth down).
“We use him in a variety of ways. It has nothing to do with ability, but he’s slow-footed,” Holgorsen said. “He doesn’t hit the hole like we want him to, which is why he’s not a starter. If there’s nothing there, he’s not just going to move three people to get the first down. That’s not what big backs do. What he brings is experience and maturity. It doesn’t faze him as due to the fact that he’s been there before. That’s what he brings to the table.”
LSU will receive a shot in the arm with the return of wide receiver Russell Shepard for Saturday’s game.
Shepard allegedly violated an NCAA bylaw when he spoke to his cousin, Craig Loston, about LSU’s involvement with Houston-based scouting service owner Willie Lyles.
Just as Holgorsen is familiar with quarterback Jarrett Lee, he is also aware of Shepard’s ability.
“I watched him when he was a sophomore in high school, and it was an impressive 5A Texas highlight film,” Holgorsen said. “He’s got ability. They’ve got a lot of guys with ability. The good news is that there’s only one ball, so that ball can only go to one of them. Our job is to figure out which one it’s going to and stop it.”
In addition to ESPN’s “College GameDay” being on hand for the game Saturday (9 a.m. -to 10 a.m. ESPNU and 10 a.m. to noon on ESPN) and Talley being honored as an NFF Hall of Famer, WVU fans are in for another treat Saturday night.
Logan native Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., 2011 winner of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” will perform the national anthem at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“We are excited to host a West Virginia native that has achieved such national prominence, and we’re happy that he will be singing at Milan Puskar Stadium this Saturday,” WVU sports marketing director Matt Wells said.
West Virginia has been installed as a six-point underdog.
LSU has won 35 straight non-conference games in the regular season.
West Virginia has won 12 of its last 14 non-conference games, but the two losses were to SEC teams (Auburn 41-30 at Auburn in 2010) and 20-14 at LSU last season.