After enjoying our free food with old friends, we entered the stadium to the amazing sight of the clearly articulated gold and blue sections of the stands. It was immediately apparent that the fanbase had understood the importance of “striping the stadium” and it looked much better than many had predicted it would.
We arrived just in time to see the WVU marching band’s traditional pre-game performance. This pre-game ritual has seen few changes over the years, and gets everyone in the mood for Mountaineer football. It gives true fans a thrill to see the “Pride of West Virginia” all condensing into a small group in the center of the field to the tune of “Simple Gifts,” and then turning around and marching outward in concentric expanding circles.
As another sign that this was not just any old game, a guest performer sang the National Anthem. Just like Landau Eugene Murphy did last year for the LSU game, country music star Trace Adkins (thanks in part to his manager, a West Virginia native) belted out an a capella version of the Star-Spangled Banner prior to kickoff. Plus, the Big XII Commissioner was on hand to perform the coin toss and to welcome us into the conference.
What an incredible game it was! Much has been written already about the offensive fireworks both teams produced—it was tied at 35 at halftime before finishing with a 70-63 WVU victory. Quarterback Geno Smith was masterful in his passing all day, but the Baylor quarterback was very good in his own right. Even when WVU moved out to a 21 point lead in the second half, we knew we couldn’t relax or feel good just yet—there was too much time left and Baylor had demonstrated that they could score quickly, too. It was a wild and memorable game!
Of all the fantastic plays—and there were many on this day—the one that I would deem the best was the one-handed grab by wide receiver J.D. Woods which kept our final drive alive and let us run out the clock. It was one of the only bad throws Geno made on this day, but J.D. was able to reach back and catch it with just one hand. Had he not, it likely would have been intercepted and the outcome could have been much different—and not nearly as glorious.
Because the game was such a barn-burner, the vast majority of the crowd stayed until the very end. We always stay after each game and sing along with John Denver’s “Country Roads” but sometimes those fans with long distances to travel have already left. This game was different, as there were virtually no empty seats to be seen. Instead, the Mountaineer Nation stood as one, arm in arm, swaying back in forth to our state anthem, while the jumbo screen showed live shots of the crowd and the players, interspersed with pictures of various state landmarks. It was a great day to be a Mountaineer!
Indeed, it’s been a great week, as we have continued to see the attention and accolades given to our undefeated team and Heisman-leading quarterback. Let’s savor how this feels, and hope to continue the dream with a victory against Texas on national TV in prime time. Let’s go, Mountaineers!!!