As a fan behind me so eloquently stated it with a hint of sarcasm:
"We need to stop scheduling these guys."
For those of you who made the trip, I'm sure you'll understand where I am coming from when I say that the atmosphere in Morgantown was electric. In fact, it probably deserves a stronger adjective, but I can't really transcribe it adequately other than emphasizing how crazy those people are about the Mountaineers. Here is a glimpse into my weekend in Morgantown. If you made the trip, share your story below.
Most fans, like myself, were staying in or around the Pittsburgh area because unless you booked your room in Morgantown last November, you were probably SOL on finding a decent hotel. I was staying with family in the small town of Indiana, PA, but when I picked up my friends in Pittsburgh on Friday night, we had to start the trip right by stopping at Primanti Brothers in the downtown strip. Navigating through Pittsburgh can be difficult if you're unfamiliar with the city, and it can be especially daunting if you're dealing with traffic. There are two main tunnels that lead in and out of the city. Because they're only two lanes wide, it can be pretty time-consuming if you hit them at the wrong hour. On Friday night, Heinz Field was being prepped for Pitt's home contest with Notre Dame. The lights were on and the set up for tailgates was visible. For a rivalry that typically flies under the radar, the Pitt-Notre Dame game is becoming a must watch every year. Anyways, after heading about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh for the night, My four friends (2 from Texas and 2 from UVA) went to bed and prepared for a late morning departure to Morgantown.
We packed my dad's car full of ham, meatloaf, and hot sausage sandwiches before getting on the road at noon. The drive was scenic through the hills of Appalachia, and expensive because of the toll roads. We arrived in Morgantown a little before two and we were mentally prepared to get hazed. I had only been to one West Virginia game before they started playing Texas. It was the Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving and those people went at each other. I mean they hated each other. It wasn't really like any game I've ever been to before, including Texas-OU. It was nasty, hardcore, "go f*** your mom and die", doused in beer, blue collar football taunting. We expected similar treatment.
Except, it was the polar opposite. The biggest thing that stuck out to me was how nice the Mountaineer fan-base was to the visitors in burnt orange. At just about every turn, we were encouraged to enjoy our visit and were occasionally invited in for a beer. It was confusing, possibly even psychological trickery, but it was convincing. We had prepared some witty "coal mining" come-backs in case we needed to break them out, but the one time it was used we were immediately overcome with guilt. Walking through the "Blue Lot" where hundreds of RV's rested with their West Virginia/Steelers/Penguins flags flying, it felt like real college football. Sometimes, you need to break away from the Texas "country club" tailgating scene to see how the other half does it, because it's awesome.
The gates to Milan Puskar Stadium opened at 5:30 and all four of us were in next to the field by about 5:35. My dad had ventured off with his friends, who are lifelong Mountaineer fans, on the alumni side, so we stayed in our designated corner next to the "boxes." We welcomed in the team, who jogged into pregame workouts shirtless to get used to the cold West Virginia air. Also, with the help of non-stop all access LHN coverage, we were able to recognize just about everybody. We gave the hook'em to everyone from Jackson Jeffcoat to the blonde nutritionist. I think we also made Kaylee Hartung feel a little uncomfortable. As it reached closer to kickoff, the Mountaineer fans began to pile in the stadium. It was a sellout. 60,000 strong. You may have noticed on television that each West Virginia section alternated colors. Our family friend explained that it was because the WVU athletic department is in constant contact with ticket holders and asked that odd sections wear navy blue while even sections wear gold. The home side didn't look as sloppy as the student side, so it may not have been as evident on television.
The stadium was loud and full of both burnt orange and navy/gold. The student section is the entire upper deck of the visitor's side, and watching them was incredible. After every score, you could see students throughout the upper deck being tossed in the air for every point scored. The "Let's Go...Mountaineers" stadium-wide chant was deafening and from the get-go you could tell that the game was going to be close. As the resident BON optimistic pessimist, I really don't blame the Longhorns for never pulling away from WVU. That's as crazy of an atmosphere as they're going to see all year, so winning in overtime is impressive in my book. Also, it was made clear that night games at WVU are not as common as they are in Austin, so that had something to do with the level of craziness endured. Legit out-of-the-jar moonshine all day can affect a fan or two.
Not everything was smooth sailing. There were two serious incidents that occurred between Texas fans and the West Virginia State Police. I was actually involved in the first one. A member of the WV ROTC was harassing members of the Texas band and the rest of the Texas section. At first, it was the Horns down, which is whatever, but then it turned into vulgar, disgusting hand motions which included his limp wrist smacking into his chest. There were special needs kids in our section whose parents were absolutely horrified. My friend, Wes, went down to take a picture of him, and I followed to tell somebody on the field to get the guy to chill out. Unfortunately, my anger was not taken well by the psychotically aggressive West Virginia State Police and, before I knew it, I was being dragged down to the field by three officers in vomit green uniforms and given a stern lecture about respect. Texas fans all had my back, though, and even the West Virginia fans thought that the officers were out of control.
The second incident, which I was not involved in, happened right after the game when the players were running into the tunnel following the Eyes of Texas. A man was asked to step off of the stairs by the WVSP. When he told them that he was going to continue standing there until the team ran off of the field, the officers came up and grabbed him by his neck. Another man, an elderly gentleman, approached the confrontation and tried to ease the tension. He and about four other Longhorn fans in the first and second rows were pushed to the ground. Fans that witnessed the ordeal lost their minds. They were calling for supervisors (to which they were politely told to f*** off) and WVU officials. One older gentleman was supposedly "calling DeLoss Dodds." Someone even demanded that Oliver Luck be brought over for an apology. The WVSP, who were obviously in over their heads, retreated back to the field before getting epically scolded by a WVU official. The incident really soured the mood of a lot of Texas fans, including myself.
As we were leaving, the West Virginia fans congratulated us on the victory and said that they were excited to visit Austin again. When some fans mentioned the WVSP incident after the game, the West Virginia fans made a good point. "Don't worry, they don't like us either."
Singing the Eyes of Texas after a road win could not have been more satisfying than it was on Saturday night. The Horns fought hard and deserved the love of the Longhorn faithful. Burnt Orange Nation's TXSTAMPEDE captured the moment on video:
As for Morgantown, book your rooms now for the game up there in two years. It is a must visit for Longhorn fans, and will be unlike any Big 12 game you've ever experienced. Thanks to WVU for the hospitality. This game is slowly turning into one of my favorite annual match-ups.