By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
West Virginia has been installed as a 12 1/2-point favorite against Baylor here Saturday in its first-ever Big 12 football game.
But head coach Dana Holgorsen said the ninth-ranked Mountaineers (3-0) certainly aren’t taking the Bears lightly.
“They have people that are capable of making a whole lot of plays,” he stated. “Baylor (3-0) is very good.”
The Bears defeated Southern Methodist 59-24, Sam Houston State 48-23 and Louisiana Monroe 47-42.
Asked how important defense is, Holgorsen replied, “Defense is always important against who you play. Every team poses different challenges.
“We need to worry about us and try to get a little bit better. We have 20 hours to work in preparation for this game.”
Holgorsen readily admitted that this game is very important because of its significance to the Big 12, the WVU program and its fans.
“There is a lot of excitement about playing (this first game) in the Big 12,” Holgorsen commented. “There’s a lot of anticipation in the state of West Virginia.
“Across the country, this game should be also significant because it’s West Virginia’s first as a new member of the Big 12.
“So there will be a lot of eyes on us.”
WVU’s second-year head coach has had personal experience as an assistant on Big 12 coaching staffs.
He noted that Art Briles, a Texas Tech alumnus, has established a strong program as the head coach at Baylor in Waco, Tex.
As a result, Holgorsen doesn’t think the Mountaineers will be distracted in preparing for Saturday’s noon kickoff.
Most of the WVU assistant coaches also are familiar with Big 12 teams’ schemes in all three phases of a game.
Briles, whose four-year record at Baylor is 25-25, guided the Bears to a 10-3 record and the Alamo Bowl championship last season. They were 6-3 in the conference.
Fifty-four lettermen returned, including 16 starters.
“My coaching career has progressed to this point,” Briles said. “I feel like I’m starting to grow in my career.”
He said you never know what to expect when you take a team on the road for a game.
“I think West Virginia has been a dominant program over the past decade or so,” Briles added. He praised WVU quarterback Geno Smith.
“He has been phenomenal. He’s really played very strong in the past couple years. He’s a great football player, and he seems in control with what’s going on.”