The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 1, 2012

A taste of what’s to come in Big 12

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia’s introduction to the Big 12 couldn’t have been more perfect. The sun broke through Friday night’s rain and Saturday morning’s fog for a beautiful early autumn afternoon in Morgantown. Country music superstar Trace Adkins hit every note on the national anthem and the stands at Mountaineer Field were perfectly striped with blue and gold, as a crowd of more than 60,000 enjoyed every moment of the historic day.

“The atmosphere was fantastic,” said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. “Our crowd was tremendous, our student section was tremendous and it was as loud as I’ve heard it. It was a great moment for West Virginia.”

But the real show was the one on the field. If a young Mountaineer fan left his seat for popcorn or a frozen lemonade, he likely missed a score or two. If a WVU student left the upper deck for a bathroom break, she probably missed another record going up in flames. And if a tailgating fanatic stayed in the parking lot for a couple extra cold ones, he was probably kicking himself for not being in the stadium for Geno Smith’s eight touchdown passes.

But as fans piled into their cars and headed out to I-79 or I-68, they were all asking the same question.

Is this what it’s always like?

“Not every game is going to be like this,” said Holgorsen after the game, perhaps reassuring weary media members, worn down from trying to keep up with the play-by-play and fans who felt like they played all four quarters. “This is my 10th year in the Big 12, and I’ve never seen a game like this. It was a perfect storm where both offenses were playing at a pretty high level.”

So maybe fans shouldn’t expect 1,500 yards of offense, 133 points and a performance by a Grammy winner every time out in the Big 12. Those highlights aren’t normal in any league. But the days of draws, traps and powers on offense and shutouts on defense may, in fact, be only memories. In four games Saturday, the winning Big 12 teams — Texas, Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia — averaged nearly 40 points and 433.8 yards of offense. Baylor and Texas Tech combined for 99 points and nearly 1,300 yards of offense in losing efforts. Coming into the weekend, five of the nation’s top 10 scoring offenses call the Big 12 home.

“It’s going to be fast-paced and a lot of good offenses,” said Holgorsen. “That’s just the way it is. I’ve been in this league going on 10 years now. It’s the culture of the Big 12.”

And as Baylor proved Saturday, giving the Mountaineers a scare despite a 21-point third-quarter lead and a 70-point outburst for the WVU offense, no lead is ever safe and no point total is ever enough.

“We’re just going to have to suck it up and keep putting points on the board,” said Tavon Austin. “It’s stressful. If anything goes wrong — if you fumble or drop a pass — you might lose the game. It’s scary on offense having to make plays until the final drive. You score 70 points, and it’s almost not enough.”

But it’s life in the Big 12, and it’s certainly good entertainment — unless you’re coaching the defense.

— E-mail: chuffman@

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