By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
One ranked team down, another one awaits.
One week after West Virginia shocked No. 11 Oklahoma State 30-21 in Morgantown, the Mountaineers face No. 16/17 Baylor (3-0, 0-0) on Saturday in Waco, Texas.
Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. and will be televised by FS1.
“They’re going to be confident and ready to go,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “They’re coming off a bye week, and they’re fresh and energetic. It will be a very dynamic place to play on Saturday night.”
It will be the second of three straight ranked teams on the slate, with the Mountaineers scheduled for a bye next week, followed by a visit from Texas Tech. West Virginia (3-2, 1-1) is 0-2 on the road this season, falling 16-7 at Oklahoma and 37-0 at Maryland.
“We don’t face one next week,” said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, when asked about playing another ranked team. “The week after that though we will probably face a 6-0, Top 10-Texas Tech team.
“You get used to it. It won’t catch us by surprise. We play well on the road. We have handled a quality opponent (Oklahoma) on the road, and obviously we didn’t handle one (Maryland) well on the road.”
Baylor, which has won seven straight going back to last season, brings with it the most prolific offense in the nation, having hammered three opponents, Wofford (69-3), Buffalo (70-13) and Louisiana-Monroe (70-3), with the Art Briles-coached Bears have rolled up an average of 751.3 yards per game.
“It should be a fun game in Waco on Saturday night. When you get right down to Baylor, obviously it’s about some offense,” Holgorsen said. “Knowing Coach Briles and what he does offensively, and the offense they’ve put on the field over the course of the season, it’s pretty impressive what they’re doing.”
West Virginia survived a shootout last season with the Bears, escaping with a high-scoring 70-63 decision over Baylor in Morgantown.
“When we played Baylor last year, you were looking at two experienced offenses that really pushed the envelope on tempo,” Holgorsen said. “We haven’t been doing that as much, but we did it last week. We were more comfortable with it last week.
“They will do it all the time. Last week there were a lot of change of possessions and that will be the case this week. The more possessions you have the more plays you make and the more plays you make the more opportunities you have to score. High-scoring is in their nature.”
Baylor has also been stingy on defense, allowing just 20 points in three games. West Virginia hasn’t been the wide-open offense it was last season, and the Mountaineers still aren’t sure who the starting quarterback will be, even if Clint Trickett played well in the win over Oklahoma State
“Opportunity arose for Clint to go out there and play the game,” Holgorsen said. “I lost several years off of my life with the communication. He’s a long way away from being able to operate our offense the way I want him to operate our offense.
“With that said, he reacted to the game well. I was glad he did. It put us in the position to win.”
The issues are injuries, which has Holgorsen not sure who will get the ball.
“I don’t know what healthy means. If they’re both 100 percent right now we would probably go with Clint because he did a pretty good job keeping the plays alive and had some savvy to him,” he said. “If he’s half-speed and Ford (Childress) is 100 percent, it would make more sense to go with Ford.
“That being said, if they’re both 50 percent, it would make more sense to go with Paul (Millard).”
No matter who it is, they’ll face the prospects of a hostile environment, but Holgorsen isn’t concerned with another long road trip.
“We’re excited to play another Top 15 team. That’s what we like to do, and we’re looking forward to the challenge this week...” Holgorsen said. “The travel won’t affect us at all. Nothing that they throw at us will surprise us. We’ve been in five real games, and we’ve handled most of them well so I think we’re prepared to do it.”
West Virginia was able to slow down Oklahoma State last week, a unit that was averaging 45.3 points a game. Now it’s time to do it again, this time with the Bears, who are paced by Bryce Petty — their third quarterback in three years — and tailback Lache Seastrunk.
“It’s just how they play. It wasn’t the only high-scoring game that they were in last year, and it wasn’t our only one either. It’s kind of how they play,” Holgorsen said. “They’re much more up-tempo than Oklahoma State.
“We pushed the ball last week but not as much as we did last year.”
—Contact Brian Woodson