MORGANTOWN - In less than a week, West Virginia will begin the second half of its football season at a place that has generally been good to the Mountaineers in recent years.
Yes, WVU has a losing record at the Carrier Dome (7-8), but that was after starting out 3-8 after the building opened in 1980 (WVU's first game there was in 1981).
Since 2003, however, the Mountaineers are 4-0 against Syracuse in the arena dubbed The Loud House, and most of those games weren't close. West Virginia has averaged 34.5 points in the last four trips there after scoring a total of just 30 in the previous four.
Still, when No. 13 West Virginia (5-1, 1-0 Big East) faces Syracuse (4-2, 0-1) in a Friday night game, at least one Mountaineer expects The Loud House to be just that.
"The Carrier Dome is a wild place to play,'' linebacker Najee Goode said. "A lot of people don't recognize that.''
They don't because Syracuse has been bad for so long now. The Orange limped along during much of the past decade with eight straight non-winning seasons from 2002 until last year's 8-5 finish. As a result, attendance at the 49,262-seat dome has dipped and enthusiasm waned. During the 2009-10 school year, attendance at a Syracuse basketball game against Villanova (34,616) was greater than the crowd for a Big East football game with Cincinnati (33,802).
Granted, the basketball crowd was a record for an on-campus game anywhere in the country, but the Carrier Dome's basketball configuration is supposed to seat just 33,000 - 16,000 less than for football. The record attendance at a Syracuse football game in the Carrier Dome remains what it has been since the building opened - 50,564 for a game with Miami (Ohio) in the first game played there.
Still, anything approaching 40,000 in a compact area with a roof is significant, and that can make a difference, Goode said.
"It's loud and all that stuff stays in there,'' Goode said. "And Syracuse has a great fan base. I don't know if people recognize that. I know they've had some down seasons, but when we go there to play them they're loud and they stay the whole game.''
It remains, however, one of Goode's favorite road venues, if for no other reason than a very simple one.
"It's different because no matter what time of year you play them it's always going to be the same weather,'' Goode said. "So that's a plus.''
West Virginia has won five of its first six games by an average of more than 28 points, yet the Mountaineers have trailed at some point in all six games they have played.
Dana Holgorsen bristles, though, at the notion that the Mountaineers are slow starters, even after WVU fell behind Connecticut a week ago and led only 10-9 at halftime before cruising to a 43-16 win.
"Everybody talks about the slow starts. But defensively, I think we started pretty fast. Special-teams-wise, I think we started pretty fast, too,'' said WVU's first-year head coach. "We talked about it all week. The offense went out there and fumbled around a little bit, punted, got beat and, me included, started pressing a little bit. That doesn't mean our team started slow. It means one-third of the team started slow. Our job offensively is to get first downs, and that's it."
There is no question, though, that the offense sometimes takes a while to get going. WVU's worst-scoring quarter this season is the first. The Mountaineers are averaging only 6.2 points in the first 15 minutes and have just four first-quarter touchdowns. They average just under 35 points the rest of the way.