The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

November 17, 2012

Mountaineers hoping for a ‘Fiesta’ in Morgantown

The last time West Virginia and Oklahoma met on the football field, the Mountaineers turned one of the program’s darkest moments into one of its best.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen is hoping history will repeat itself today when the No. 13 Sooners (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) make their first-ever visit to Milan Puskar Stadium to take on his Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) in a 7 p.m. showdown that will air live on FOX.

That last meeting came on Jan. 2, 2008, in Glendale, Ariz., at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Big East champion WVU was a decided underdog in that contest, and fans were hurting after the Mountaineers fell 13-9 to a sub-.500 Pitt team in the regular season finale. That loss kept WVU out of the BCS title game, and days later head coach Rich Rodriguez — a Mountain State native and a former WVU defensive back — poured salt in that wound when he left his alma mater to become the head coach at Michigan.

The Mountaineer program, which was on top of the world a couple weeks earlier, was down in the dumps, and analysts everywhere were picking the Big 12 champion Sooners to win in a blowout.

From the moment WVU’s players walked out of the tunnel holding hands, with interim head coach Bill Stewart leading the way, it was clear that wasn’t going to be the case.

The Mountaineers jumped out to a 13-3 lead, led 20-6 at halftime and, after Oklahoma pulled within five points in the second half, ran away late to win 48-28 behind the play of quarterback Pat White, running back Noel Devine and fullback Owen Schmitt.

After the game — as the Pride of West Virginia played “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and Schmitt teared up like a baseball fan watching “Field of Dreams” while talking to the FOX television crew about his love for the state and the program — it was clear that the Mountaineers were once again on top.

The current state of the WVU football program feels ironically similar to the days leading up to that last clash with OU. This time, WVU didn’t lose its opportunity for a national title with one bad night in Morgantown, but instead came crashing down from a 5-0 start and a No. 5 national ranking with a four-game losing skid.

Holgorsen isn’t planning a nighttime escape for The Big House, but he is being questioned about what’s happened to his once-unstoppable offense and why players like Travares Copeland and Ivan McCartney have left the team.

As it was more than four years ago in the desert, WVU is desperate for a big win.

“They’re a great team, and it could really turn our season around if we get a win against a top team in Morgantown and boost the morale of the team,” said junior linebacker Doug Rigg of the matchup with the Sooners. “Not many people on this team have gone through a four-game losing streak. Just getting a win, especially against a great team, will help our confidence a lot and propel us to win these last games of the season.”

Holgorsen even brought White, a WVU legend, to speak to his team this week and participate in pregame activities, hoping to find a little of that Fiesta Bowl magic.

WVU, which has a trip to Iowa State on Nov. 23 and a home game with Kansas on Dec. 1, needs at least one more win to become bowl eligible and could greatly improve its postseason location by winning out.

But Oklahoma has its own goals in mind, particularly trying to stay in the race for a Big 12 title, should Kansas State stumble, and if not, keep alive the hope for an at-large BCS bowl bid.

The current OU players weren’t on the team when the Sooners dropped the Fiesta Bowl in 2008, but they’ve heard the stories, particularly from head coach Bob Stoops, who was the Sooner coach that night, and they’re not planning on letting it happen again.

“They burn couches if they win, so we’re going to see,” said OU defensive lineman Casey Walker. “We’re going to try not to let them burn a couch (this weekend).

“I think that’s kind of funny and ironic. I’ve never heard of that. I’ve heard of bringing down the goal post or rushing the field, but burning a couch? If they’ve got the money to buy a couch every week, then more power to them.”

If it meant a win tonight, Holgorsen would probably gladly make the trip to the furniture store to replace the charred sofas.

— E-mail: and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH

Text Only
Latest Sports
  • 042014 old white Happy birthday to The Old White

    As Greenbrier owner Jim Justice proudly stood behind the podium on the first tee box addressing a crowd at the 100th anniversary of the historic Old White TPC Course, a surprise guest emerged from the bushes by the tennis center.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042014 bubba Watson becoming a West Virginian

    Greenbrier owner Jim Justice was glued to the television a week ago today, watching Bubba Watson try to chase down his second green jacket at Augusta National Golf Club.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042014 spartans LOCAL ROUNDUP: Spartans win Spring Break Wooden Bat Classic

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • St. Joe’s Lewis named 2014 High School Coach of the Year

    Huntington St. Joseph girls basketball coach Shannon Lewis has made a habit of celebrating success in Charleston over the last few years.

    April 19, 2014

  • 041914 old white Old White to celebrate 100 years

    The home of The Greenbrier Classic will be having a birthday today, and the celebration should be something special.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mullens, Pineville to meet in Anderson Memorial

    After many years away from the sideline, legendary Mullens High School coach Don Nuckols is returning to the game of basketball.

    April 19, 2014

  • 041914 D'Antoni Lakers mum on D’Antoni

    Mike D’Antoni was still the Los Angeles Lakers’ coach when he left their training complex to spend the Easter weekend out of town with his family.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041914 gibby WVU trying to find speed on defense

    Tony Gibson took over as West Virginia’s new defensive coordinator over the winter with the goal of trying not to do too much to rock the boat. As the fourth coach to hold that spot in as many years, the Van native — in his second stint as a Mountaineer assistant — knew that his players needed some stability.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041814 Sisler Diamond Classic continues today

    Fayetteville pitcher Kaitlyn Sisler pitched five innings of shutout softball as the Pirates beat Oak Hill 10-0 Wednesday in the Diamond Classic in Fayetteville.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • D’Antoni’s Lakers future still unclear

    With the Los Angeles Lakers season officially over — the Lakers beat the Spurs 113-100 Wednesday but finished 27-55 overall, the most losses in the club’s history and the franchise’s worst winning percentage since the Minneapolis Lakers in 1957-58 — Marshall fans will be keeping a close eye on what’s going on in Tinsel Town over the coming days.

    April 17, 2014