MORGANTOWN - Bill Stewart and his no-game-is-bigger-than-any-other philosophy is going to be put to the test this week.
West Virginia plays at LSU Saturday night and, while it may or may not be the biggest game the Mountaineers play this season, even for the most casual fan, it ranks as far more intriguing than just about any other.
And then there is the take on the game presented by one Bruce Irvin, WVU's just-awoken sack machine. Stewart is apparently going to have his work cut out for him conveying to the junior college transfer that this is simply Game 4.
"This is for all the marbles to me, baby,'' Irvin said. "This is my Sugar Bowl right here. If you want to be considered the best, you've got to play the best. It's going to be good.''
For Irvin, this is a bit more than just West Virginia at LSU. That's intriguing enough just for all of the usual reasons: Two Top 25 teams (LSU is No. 15, WVU No. 22), a night game at perhaps the most famous night venue in all of college football, the chance for the much-maligned Big East to finally make a statement this season, not to mention it being without question the Mountaineers' 2010 litmus test.
No, for Irvin it's more than that simply because he's a Southern guy, having grown up in Atlanta.
"The SEC, I mean, that's the best conference in college football,'' Irvin said. "You always want to play against the best. If we can do good against the best, there's no telling what we're going to be able to do.''
But there's another, more
personal reason that excites Irvin about Saturday night's game.
"Man, one of my closest friends, Kelvin Sheppard, No. 11, he's the starting middle linebacker for them,'' Irvin said. "It's going to be everything right here. He's No. 11, I'm No. 11. We're going to see who has the best day.''
Had this game been a week earlier, there would be little cause for anyone to believe that Irvin had even the slightest chance to show up anyone, much less one of the best players on one of the best defenses in the country. Sheppard, who went to Atlanta's Stephenson High School with Irvin, is the leading tackler on an LSU defense that with the exception of a fourth-quarter meltdown against North Carolina in the opener has been as dominant as any in the country.
Irvin? He spent the first two weeks of the season in the witness protection program. After being touted as the answer to West Virginia's pass-rushing problems, he had three tackles in two games and only occasionally even sniffed a sack. For the record, he didn't get any.
And while everyone noticed, Irvin remained realistic.
"The first two games, [Coastal Carolina and Marshall were using] quick screens, quick drops, three-step drops,'' Irvin said. "I don't think even Dwight Freeney could get a sack on a three-step drop. Everybody was talking about [how] we didn't have any sacks. We heard that. We really wanted to put our foot on the metal and get some sacks.''