WVU preps for tough environment

MORGANTOWN – Dana Holgorsen said it’s his and his staff’s job to prepare the West Virginia University football team for the atmosphere that surrounds Oklahoma football.

West Virginia, 1-0, will be traveling to the Norman campus for the first time since 1982 when quarterback Jeff Hostetler, playing in his first game as a Mountaineer after transferring from Penn State, led WVU to a stunning 41-27 upset over the heavily favored Sooners.

No player on the WVU roster was even born when that game was played, so those athletes will have to rely on the expertise of an experience-laden coaching staff that has been around the Big 12 block a time or two.

“The atmosphere is rowdy, and it’s loud,” Holgorsen said. “The people are right up on you. I’ll do my best with explaining to the guys exactly what to expect. This is a new experience for about 35 guys who will be traveling with us to Norman. That’s a lot of inexperience, but we won’t let them use that as an excuse.”

A crowd of about 85,000 is expected to fill the stands Saturday when WVU invades Oklahoma for a 7 p.m. game that will be nationally televised on Fox.

“That’s 85,000 plus the 100 on their sideline who are against us,” WVU defensive lineman Shaq Rowell said. “There couldn’t be a better feeling than that. Your back is against the wall.”

That wall is literally right on top of the sidelines, making for tougher communications.

“It’s about ignoring them and staying in tune with the game and not letting it bother you,” defensive lineman Will Clarke said. “If you don’t let it bother you, then eventually it will be quiet.”

“It must be an Oklahoma thing (because) Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa are all like that,” Holgoren said in reference to the fans’ proximity to the sidelines. “I mean, literally, the chairs are up against the wall, and there are people behind you. Is there a competitive disadvantage to it? No. It’s a distraction. There are many distractions you have to overcome on the road, and that’s one distraction we have to overcome.”

Rowell said the Mountaineers have to look at the matchups as just any other game, but added that you really can’t afford to do so.

“It’s the first Big 12 game of the season,” he said. “Those younger guys, they don’t have time to be young. We try to tell those younger guys to just follow the lead of the older guys. That’s what we do. That’s the body language the older guys have.

“Let’s be honest,” Rowell added. “No one expects us to go out and win. So why not go in there and play? I’m looking forward to the challenge this weekend.”