By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
West Virginia embarks here Saturday at noon on one of its greatest opportunities ever in football.
That’s to defeat 25th-ranked Baylor (3-0) in the ninth-ranked Mountaineers’ first-ever Big 12 Conference football game in history. Coaches, players, fans and the entire Mountain State certainly are excited.
But WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen doesn’t want his players to over react and put greater importance on this first meeting than necessary.
“We are not playing the Big 12,” he said. “We’re playing Baylor (with eight more conference opponents still ahead). It’s (only) about Baylor vs. West Virginia.”
That’s certainly true, and it’s vastly important to all involved and to all concerned.
Old-timers will tell you, however, that there have been similar significant situations involving WVU football teams in the past.
Two such significant events that come to mind occurred two years apart in the 1950s under Art (Pappy) Lewis’ watch.
His 1952 football team went up to Pittsburgh and upset the 18th-ranked Panthers 16-0. That is remembered as West Virginia’s first ever win against a then-Top 20-ranked team.
Then in the 1954 season opener the Mountaineers knocked off No. 15-ranked South Carolina 26-6 in Columbia, S.C.
That memorable triumph followed a 42-19 loss to Georgia Tech on Jan. 1, 1954, in the Mountaineer’s first major postseason event. It was the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La.
There were only six bowl games in the nation at that time.
So this 2012 WVU team (3-0) faces an opportunity to earn extended memories of what continues to be part of another Golden Era as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
“I’m pretty excited heading into conference play,” said junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey, one of WVU’s top three offensive standouts. “Everybody has been waiting on this very moment.
“Baylor is our first Big 12 opponent, and we just have to take it week to week. We’re excited to play Baylor and kick off the Big 12 season.”
Darwin Cook, a redshirt junior safety, said, “It’s a high advantage for us on defense. Last week we played Maryland, and it was slow tempo which threw us off balance.
“We are used to an up-tempo offense and defense. We preach that every day in practice. I think we will be fine with it on Saturday.”
Cook noted that the Bears throw the ball deep. “They try to beat you vertically a lot of the time,” Cook noted. “It’s a big challenge for us.”
He believes the defense will be prepared well for Saturday. WVU center Joe Madsen commented, “I can’t wait. It’s a new experience, a new game, and new people. I think we’ll go out there and play our best.”