WVU ready to bring excitement back in 2014

A few years ago, West Virginia came into its first season in the Big 12 Conference with plenty of fanfare and higher expectations than ever.

Just a few months separated from a historic win in the Orange Bowl, the Mountaineers were chosen to finish second in the league.

But since entering the league, West Virginia is 6-12 in Big 12 play, coming off its worst season in more than a decade and has just two conference road wins since a win against Texas in Austin propelled the Mountaineers into the top five early in the 2012 season before dropping six of their next eight to end the season.

Now that the Mountaineers are picked to finish eighth in the conference heading into 2014, head coach Dana Holgorsen and his team are starting the progress of slowly finding their place in this league. And they're ready to bring the excitement back to Morgantown.

"It just seems like yesterday that we were having press conferences for going into the Big 12," Holgorsen said Tuesday during Big 12 Media Days in Dallas. "But going into year three, we've never been excited as we are right now. Our players in the locker room understand what the Big 12 is all about, they understand how challenging it is."

Holgorsen hasn't had any trouble getting his team ready for the season. As the Mountaineers head into a season in which they will be playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation, in addition to the always strenuous Big 12 slate, there doesn't need to be much motivation.

"Our guys are ready to go. We play one of the toughest schedules, if not the toughest schedules in the country," Holgorsen said. "I haven't really had to mention to the guys the challenges ahead of us, because they know what the challenges are like. They're working hard and getting ready for the challenges in 2014."

It's much different than it was in the days when Holgorsen was first at WVU and the Mountaineers were playing in the Big East when they were a perennial favorite. Now they have to start from scratch and prove that they're able to get to that point. But that's another reason to be more excited about 2014.

Although the results weren't there a year ago, Holgorsen was pleased with the way his team competed down the stretch. And with more experience and players who know what it's like to play in the Big 12, it's left room for some optimism heading into the season. But, things have changed. It's not like it used to be.

"The days of rolling through the Big East and being able to play in a BCS game are long gone. We're not thinking about that anymore. Although that was fun and that was a huge moment in West Virginia University, it's a whole different ballgame right now," Holgorsen said. "We have not been dominant in the Big 12, obviously. I don't know how many teams have been dominant in the Big 12. Parity is upon us.

"We better be ready to go each and every week."

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