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Five Months Ago, the Biggest Upset in the History of College Football Happened in Morgantown

October 4, 2012
By JIM ELLIOTT (elliott@theintelligencer.net) , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

If you watched last week's game against Baylor and wondered aloud - 'what would West Virginia's offense do against its own defense?' - that question has already been answered.

Sort of.

Each year, at the end of spring ball, they play a scrimmage where they invite fans to pay $10 to watch, give the offense normal points for scoring, then assign various defensive points for a three-and-out, drive stop, fumble recovery, and interception.

Article Photos

West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey stands second in receiving yards in the Big 12, one spot ahead of teammate Tavon Austin.

Would you believe, somehow, some way, WVU's defense beat WVU's offense, 43-34, just a little more than five months ago with a bulk of the very same players that were on the field last weekend?

That has to go down as the biggest upsets in the history of college football.

A year earlier, when Dana Holgorsen was still putting his Red Bull offense in place, Geno Smith and the boys put an 83-17 whooping on the old 3-3-5 stack.

Fact Box

Spread: Texas is a 6.5 point favorite

Series: West Virginia leads series, 1-0.

Broadcasts: Fox - (Gus Johnson - play-by-play, Charles Davis - analyst, Julie Alexandria - sideline). Radio, Mountaineer Sports Network - (Tony Caridi - play-by-play, Dwight Wallace - analyst, Hoppy Kercheval - host, Jed Drenning - sideline). Satellite Radio Broadcast - The West Virginia - Texas game can be heard live on Sirius Channel 85 and XM 85 with the MSN broadcast. Live Statistics - WVUsports.com. Twitter Updates - Twitter.com/WVUSportsBuzz; WVUSportsScores

Notes: This marks the second meeting between the two schools and the first between the two coaches. West Virginia won, 7-6, in the only meeting between the two schools in 1956, in Austin. As an assistant coach and offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, and as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen has faced Texas and Mack Brown four times. Brown is 1-0 against WVU, having faced the Mountaineers as head coach at North Carolina in the 1997 Gator Bowl, winning 20-13.

Assuming you didn't take the Gold-Blue game for what it was - the last in a three-week set of practices - you might have thought this was going to be a banner year for defense in Morgantown.

You knew about the offense that was on the field last April. Smith was healthy and playing in the spring game for what seemed like the first time.

Smith completed 23 of 29 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns (one to Stedman Bailey and another to Jordan Thompson). Thompson was the leading receiver with eight catches for 66 yards that day.

More review of that game shows interceptions by Matt Moro, Brodrick Jenkins, and Will Clarke, plus a fumble recovery by Avery Williams. It also had seven drive stops and a pair of three-and-outs.

Unbelievable.

After the Gold Blue game, Holgorsen said they were playing a bunch of people who weren't going to be playing in the fall.

After the Baylor game, they said changes might well be forthcoming.

''We always look to make changes if we need to,'' Holgorsen said. ''College football is what it is. We can't call somebody and ask for a trade or try to pick someone up off of waivers. Those are guys that have played around here for a long time. We have to get them better. The freshmen have to continue to improve, and it is our job as coaches to get the young guys more experience in practice, so we can trust them a little bit more during the game. After the course of 92 plays, you have to play other people. You are going to see a dropoff. If there wasn't a dropoff, then those backups would be starters. The young guys are backups, and they have to get better with our coaching and experience.''

WVU vs. Texas

Yes, there's very little football history between West Virginia and Texas, assuming the details of that 7-6 victory in their lone previous meeting in 1956 have slipped the memory.

The Longhorns have a much more detailed history of winning, claiming national titles in 1963, 1969, 1970, and 2005. West Virginia is still in search of its first.

When you think of the University of Texas football, it's big money, it's big stadium, it's an all-around big deal. But the last three years, it's been fairly average.

In the last two-plus seasons, Texas is just 17-13 overall with a national ranking, this season notwithstanding, only a wish.

West Virginia, meanwhile, is 23-7 with a BCS-bowl victory.

Granted, the competition has not been the same, so this is a big deal for the Mountaineers. It's not every day they play in front of more than 100,000 fans. But it's not the David vs. Goliath some believe it is. If the Mountaineers are going to get where they want to get in the Big 12, winning games like this isn't an option. It's a must.

In the pros

One area WVU can't touch Texas is the number of players in the pros.

The Longhorns list 40 players on current NFL rosters, including names like Jamaal Charles, Jermichael Finley, Casey Hampton, Quentin Jammer, and Shaun Rogers.

The Mountaineers list 16 current alumns as NFL players, including first-round pick Bruce Irvin, but there's not a lot of Pro Bowlers in the group.

This means nothing to college football other than Austin is a place NFL scouts keep high on the GPS because top-level talent usually looks there for a home first.

Looking at WVU's current roster, they clearly missed on a few.

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