Mountaineer football fans knew that playing in the Big 12 Conference would mean a frantic pace of play, plenty of offense, and games that would be shootouts on the scoreboard.
But the much awaited Big 12 opener against Baylor Saturday wasn't a shootout. It was more like a nuclear war of attrition.
For a casual fan watching high-scoring college football games through a season these wild affairs are exciting and entertaining to watch. But when you are a committed fan to one of the teams involved in such a game, it is more than just entertaining. I think the word for me would be, well, just plain exhausting.
How many times have you been watching a game where you weren't worried about whether your team would score, but how much time they would leave for their opponent? As the first half wound down in a 28-28 tie, it looked like the Mountaineers were parlaying a perfect scenario by driving for a score with virtually no time left. But Baylor foiled the strategy by calling two timeouts on defense, the last with 29 seconds to go.
WVU scored the touchdown, of course, but surely there was no way that Baylor could do anything with 29 seconds, right? Wrong. On the last play of the half, the Mountaineer defense inexplicably allowed a Bear receiver to run free for a 67-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 35.
That's what I mean by exhausting. There was never a time throughout the long afternoon that one felt the game was in hand, even when West Virginia surged to a three touchdown lead in the third quarter. After Baylor followed with a score, the Mountaineers had a rare punt after three plays and that's all it took to again turn the momentum. In a game like this, having to punt was equivalent to a turnover.
But the West Virginia offense ultimately couldn't be stopped. Of the 14 possessions during the game, the Mountaineers missed a long field goal their first time with the ball and kneeled to run out the clock on their last. In between they scored 10 touchdowns in 12 possessions. How's that for efficiency?
Admittedly there were less than stellar defenses on the field for both teams, but what we also saw were great offensive schemes and exceptional playmakers on both sides. It was remarkable to watch. And true, the West Virginia defense was as porous as we have seen, but all I can say is that it stopped Baylor on one more possession than the Bears stopped the Mountaineers. Do that every week and I guess we can live with it.
I will be attending the game at the University of Texas in Austin next week, and because Sunday is a long travel day returning home,my column will be one day late. I guess just this once I will be the Tuesday Morning Quarterback.
Next Saturday: With a strong defense, the major problems Texas has had the previous two years have been on the offensive side of the ball as a result of ineffective play at the quarterback position. But in 2012, they appeared to have solved that issue with David Ash, who has been very productive and efficient. The Longhorns are 4-0 on the year with an exciting 41-36 win of their own on Saturday night at Oklahoma State, and may be the strongest WVU opponent of the season. They will huddle on offense and have more emphasis on a strong running attack, so the game will not be played at the frantic pace we saw in Morgantown last Saturday. It will be an exciting opportunity for the Mountaineers before 100,000 at one of the great venues in college football. But as much as I hope I am wrong, unless the defense can show some improvement we may come up a bit short. Texas 35, West Virginia 31.