Trying to make sense of a special Saturday
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 07:10
A striped stadium, 19 touchdowns and what seemed like more broken records than points; in its first ever game as a member of the Big 12 Conference, West Virginia sent Morgantown and the rest of the nation into a tizzy after its 70-63 win against visiting Baylor Saturday.
For the West Virginia fans wearing gold and blue in alternating sections, this day was a long time coming. The members of Mountaineer Nation showed up loud and proud, joining together for packed parking lots full of pregame tailgating to officially welcome Baylor – and the rest of the Big 12 – into its home.
West Virginia was finally in its rightful place; the wait was over, and all eyes in the Big 12 were turned to its newest and proudest member.
The trio of victories it achieved prior to Saturday had West Virginia primed to be a focal point of the Big 12. Yet, the events that transpired on a picture-perfect homecoming weekend at Milan Puskar Stadium proved perhaps the epicenter of the Big 12 is too small a scale on which to view this team.
From the first firing of the musket, it was apparent West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith was on a mission to do something special.
In the present era of high-tempo, fast-paced football, it’s no longer a shock to see scores of 40, 50 or even 60 points. Even West Virginia’s final score of 70 was only one more than the 69 points it scored in its season-opening victory against Marshall.
Smith, who now sits unquestionably atop the race for the Heisman Trophy, twisted the Baylor secondary to his liking, spinning magic each and every time he dropped back in the pocket to pass.
His eight touchdown passes and 656 yards passing are not from a folk tale or some other form of colloquial sensationalism – they were real, and they unfolded in front of a stunned crowd that was simply too amazed to truly process what was happening before its eyes.
What will make this day one of the truly special days in West Virginia history wasn’t the number of points or the newly set records, but instead, the feelings Smith and the Mountaineers offense created each and every time they touched the football.
Sure, Baylor’s offense was equally potent, shredding the Mountaineers’ secondary and falling just one score short of West Virginia in the touchdown race, but that didn’t matter.
Every person in attendance and those marveling on television from afar – knew when Smith got the ball back in his hands, he would not be denied.
After the game, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said every game the Mountaineers play in their new conference won’t end up the way the Baylor game did.
"Not every Big 12 game is like this," he said. "Not every Big 12 offense is like this, and not every game is going to be like this."
I have but one question for Holgorsen: What other game will ever be like this? For any team, anywhere?
West Virginia scored 70 points and still needed a critical third-down conversion late in the fourth quarter to lock up the win.
Senior inside receiver Tavon Austin and redshirt junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey caught two and five touchdowns, respectively, which pushed their career touchdown receptions total past the previous record.
Before Saturday, the school record for receiving yards in a game was 209. Austin (215) and Bailey (303) both eclipsed that record – in the same game.
LeBron James tweeted that Geno Smith was putting up "#videogamestatistics."
Tell me when a game like this is going to happen again?
There’s a fresh level of optimism layered into the budding hopes of Mountaineer fans. This season has already proven special, and after this victory, it’s clear West Virginia has the potential to perform in a way no team before it has ever done.
If the Mountaineers continue leaving fans speechless, they may find themselves in the spotlight of not just the Big 12, but of all college football.
Right now, though, in the immediate aftermath of perhaps the most memorable game in school history, it’s important to remember one thing: what happened Saturday may never, ever happen again – and this once-in-a-generation ride could be derailed at any moment. Let’s have fun while it lasts and appreciate just how special this team, and this moment, is.