Welcome To The Big 12

West Virginia was surely welcomed to the Big 12 Conference on Saturday.

The Mountaineers played a game like it hadn't in many, many years – if ever – this afternoon in a striped-out Milan Puskar Stadium.

Baylor came into the game with one of the best and fastest offenses in the nation. Ditto WVU.

The eighth-ranked Mountaineers came out with a 70-63 victory, but it wasn't without some sparks on offense, as more program records were shattered.

"Not every Big 12 game is like this. Not every Big 12 offense is like this. We were playing at a high level, and it just kind of steamrolled from there," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. "That's just the way it is."

All who tuned in, whether it was from their couch at home or inside Milan Puskar Stadium, had expected the game to be a high-scoring affair. Both teams didn't disappoint.

The two teams combined for 1,507 yards and 133 points. Heisman Trophy frontrunner and WVU quarterback Geno Smith finished 45-of-51 for 656 yards and eight touchdowns. Baylor signal caller Nick Florence wasn't half bad either.

"I've been in this league 10 years, and I've never been in a game like that before," Holgorsen admitted.

It looks like West Virginia is exactly who we thought they were, though. This is a group that will win based on its offense, but will need a few key stops from its defense to have a shot at winning the Big 12.

On Saturday, it seemed like every third-down play, particularly in the first half and early into the third quarter when the Mountaineers somehow found a 21-point lead. When the WVU defense was able to pull out a stop at any point, it allowed the offense to jump on its opponent.

That's exactly what will happen down the road, I'm sure, too.

WVU's defense isn't going to be able to stop many Big 12 offenses. While there's talent on the Mountaineers' roster on that side of the ball, the conference offers more.

What Mountaineer fans are going to have to hope for is this defense slows its opponents down just enough to outscore them.

"I did a poor job of preparing them. I did a poor job of calling plays. We've got to go back and make some changes," said WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest, who was visibly distraught with his team's performance. "They're the same plays we prepared for. We didn't make plays. They executed better than we did."

Well, I know what you're saying … "I knew that would be the case come August." That's true, but we weren't sure. And after Saturday's game, we should be absolutely sure that's the case.

"I honestly feel like we lost this game," said linebacker Doug Rigg. "If we play that way again, it's going to cost us."

Smith and company are going to have to score this many for WVU to win some Big 12 games. That's just a fact. If West Virginia's defense can muster up a stop or two along the way, then that could prove to be enough.

What happens, though, if and/or when West Virginia's offense doesn't have a great game against another great offensive opponent? Is that where the Big 12 title aspirations end? Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas State all have units that should scare WVU.

It's not going to be easy, especially when some of those games aren't at home.

West Virginia's defense played a half of a quarter well on Saturday. And, really, that's all it had to do for the Mountaineers to gain a lead and keep it.

It was a welcome to the Big 12 few people will forget. It's a different type of game, and one – at least for this year – we are just going to have to get used to.


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