West Virginia Doesn’t Lose Night Games

MORGANTOWN – Rich Rodriguez had a lot of famous sayings during his time as a football coach.

Who could forget the Lion King stories, ”hold the rope” or how his son, Rhett, is going to be the quarterback at (insert name of school dad’s coaching here)?

He also always said Mountaineers don’t lose night games. And, for the most part, he was right. West Virginia is 25-6-2 all-time at home in night games, 18-2 since 2000.

There were some big ones along the way, too.

Who could forget West Virginia’s 2003 victory against No. 3 Virginia Tech, one of the school’s most crowning victories? That was the kind of night that gave Morgantown a bad name.

There have been more, but not as many as you’d think. All time, the Mountaineers are 31-93 against ranked teams, and more than a few of those victories happened when they used to play college football during the day (20 of the 33 night games in school history have been played since 2000).

Tonight’s game against LSU shapes up as an all-time classic. ESPN’s College GameDay is in town – a first in Morgantown. There are no tickets left. More than 17,000 students requested tickets, and they’ll presumably be selling beer inside the stadium well into the 10 o’clock hour.

If you’re in a Mountaineers uniform and you can’t get up for this, you probably shouldn’t be in a Mountaineers uniform.

”They’ll just be going crazy,” quarterback Geno Smith said. ”We need that. Our team feeds off that.”

Head coach Dana Holgorsen has been asked after each game, including the road game, what he thought of the WVU fans. He usually says he’s thankful for the support, but he’s got a lot more important things on his mind during a game than to focus on what’s going on in the stands.

The guess here is he’ll notice it tonight.

”The atmosphere is just completely different,” linebacker Najee Goode said. ”For one, the fans have all day to drink and do what they want to do, and two, we get to sit in our rooms at the hotel and get calls from people that are out of town and hear that they’re coming in.

”And add the fact GameDay is here, on top of that, all of the other stuff is coming and it’s a Gold Rush. LSU hasn’t seen anything like that before because they haven’t played up here. That just builds up more for us and that’s something else they’ve got to deal with and hopefully we get to use that to our advantage.”

Defensive end Julian Miller was part of the WVU team that beat Auburn on a Thursday in 2008. He swears the crowd was a big reason for that 34-17 victory.

”We were down, I wanna say 17 (actually it was 14), and we came back to win,” he said. ”Everyone knows how it gets in Morgantown during a night game. I think the atmosphere is going to be great. It’s a good experience for the younger guys, and it’s a good experience for us older guys, especially the seniors, to go out like this.”

A victory would make it as memorable night as any at Mountaineer Field.

Another one?

Speaking of in-state Division I colleges, what is going on with Marshall’s football strength and conditioning program?

James Townsend abruptly resigned as coach Wednesday, which isn’t a huge deal unless you’re armed with the knowledge that he was the third guy to leave the position since the calendar flipped to 2011.

Frank Piraino rang in the new year in Marshall gear, but left in January for Temple. Scott Bennett came along as his replacement but left after less than six months, opening the door for Townsend. Now that Townsend’s gone, assistant Joe Miday has taken over on an interim basis.

Hey, they can’t all be rock-star famous like Mike Barwis.

Perhaps a catchy slogan is needed: Marshall strength and conditioning, you stay till lunch, you’re in charge.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net