Lone Star statement
AUSTIN, Texas - It didn't take long Saturday night for West Virginia to realize it wasn't in Piscataway anymore.
The Mountaineers weren't in East Hartford or Louisville, either, or just about anywhere else they have grown accustomed to playing, often before raucous crowds, but usually rather quaint or even petite in regard to size.
That whole thing about everything being bigger in Texas applies perfectly to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, where more than 100,000 regularly flock to see Texas play football. On Saturday night, more than had ever flocked there before - a stadium record 101,851 - came to see little ol' West Virginia make its Texas debut.
What they saw they didn't much like, or at least that was the case for the roughly 90,000 wearing burnt orange. Still, after West Virginia walked out of there with an exhausting 48-45 win, it was as if the Mountaineers had beaten a lot more than the 100 or so Texas players.
And believe it or not, that's not something visiting teams usually are forced to deal with.
"That is by far the loudest and longest I've heard them yell since I've been here,'' said Texas coach Mack Brown, who has been in Austin 15 years and through two runs at a national title. "I thought they really helped us.''
Here's the thing, though: That Texas-sized crowd and the unprecedented noise it made - for years the Longhorns have complained about a lack of enthusiasm from fans - might have helped UT, but it didn't faze West Virginia.
Crowd noise? What crowd noise?
"This is a strange environment. I've never seen this place like this,'' said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, no stranger to coaching opposing teams at Texas. "I've been here when it was not loud, but it was loud [Saturday night].
"But our guys don't care. They just like to play football.''
Indeed, one thing probably encapsulates West Virginia's attitude about the crowd and the deafening noise it was able to make. In the second quarter and then again in the second half after huge Texas plays, the stadium rocked with dance music. Not only did the crowd jump and shout in rhythm, so did the players, going so far as to filter out onto the field in front of their bench and hop up and down. It was particularly crazy after West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith fumbled and it was recovered for a touchdown in the second quarter.
West Virginia's players pretty much ignored that one, but then when it happened again in the second half, well, the Texas players weren't the only ones jumping around and dancing. The Mountaineers simply got into it, too, and juiced up themselves.
"That's just the way we are,'' Smith said. "We're going to win as a team and lose as a team. And we might as well have fun doing it.''
Some of the Mountaineers claimed not to have paid attention to the noise level and the enthusiasm of the Texas crowd, despite it being the largest any WVU team has ever played in front of (the previous high was 96,445 at Penn State 21 years ago.)
"I really wasn't hearing it,'' safety Darwin Cook said. "I guess I'm used to it.''
Well, in a way that's true. West Virginia has played in front of some large and loud opposing crowds just in the seasons most of these players have been at the school. Big East teams always tended to save their loudest and biggest crowds for the Mountaineers. And in recent seasons, bowl games have been almost road games given that the opponents usually had more fans.
But this was just different because of the sheer volume, both literally (noise) and figuratively (number of people). And it's something the Mountaineers needed to get used to because while no other Big 12 venue seats 100,000, they are predominantly larger and rowdier than anything in the Big East.
"I feel better about this team because we overcame adversity,'' Holgorsen said, referring to both game situations and the atmosphere.
Then again, as is always the case the entire crowd was not pro-Texas. They were dwarfed by Longhorn fans, but there were still perhaps 10,000 West Virginians in the crowd, if not more.
That was a number that amazed even Texas fans and officials given the distance, but once again it didn't even raise an eyebrow among the Mountaineers.
"It's amazing to see our fans when we travel anywhere in the United States of America,'' said running back Andrew Buie, he of the 207 rushing yards against Texas. "But we're used to it. We know that anywhere we go, they'll be there, too.''