WVU set to play first league game as member of Big 12
MORGANTOWN -- As the No. 9 West Virginia University football team prepares for its first Big 12 game against No. 25 Baylor, head coach Dana Holgorsen has a simple message for his team.
The Bears (3-0) and Mountaineers (3-0) meet at noon, Saturday, in Milan Puskar Stadium. WVU's home game will be televised on FX.
West Virginia can't get too caught up with winning the conference right away, the Mountaineers have to take things one step at a time.
"We are not playing the Big 12, we are playing Baylor," Holgorsen said. "We need to do a good job because they are a quality football team.
"Our team needs to get to know Baylor, what their schemes are, what their players are and what we have to do to win the game on Saturday. Over the course of time, we will get more familiar with the Big 12."
While it's obvious the Mountaineers will have some adjusting to get used to on the field in the Big 12, there are also some things off the field they'll need to get used to.
That includes the cultural differences between what West Virginia has been used to in its time as a member of the Big East and what it will have to get used to playing the likes of Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12.
"We're still adapting to it," Holgorsen said. "From a recruiting standpoint, those (Texas) guys have played football since they were in third grade. They're playing a lot of football when they're in junior high. When you get them, they are probably more game-ready from a skill standpoint, not from a talent standpoint."
Skill is one thing WVU's opponent Saturday has plenty of. The Bears enter the game as one of the most explosive offenses in the country, ranked fifth nationally scoring at more than 51 points per game.
Senior quarterback Nick Florence, who took over after Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III left for the NFL, leads Baylor. Through the first three Florence has thrown for 1,004 yards and 11 touchdowns with four interceptions.
"He's a good player and a program player. He's been there in that quarterback room for five years now, and (Baylor head coach Art Briles) does a great job of coaching quarterbacks," Holgorsen said. "He's a winner and runs the ball well. We are going to have to make sure we contain him. He understands his system, he gets them in the right play and he does a good job of completing balls.
"He takes some chances and hopefully he take a few too many that we can capitalize on."
Florence has two explosive targets in the passing game that he can look to in Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese.
The two have combined to catch 32 passes for 657 yards and seven touchdowns.
"They just make you cover the whole field, which we do a pretty good job of that offensively as well," Holgorsen said. "They make guys cover sideline to sideline, but then stretch them vertically as well. If you want to look at two similarities, we try and make them cover the field sideline to sideline."
As for the Mountaineers, Holgorsen expects senior running back Shawne Alston to be back after being limited last week against Maryland because of a bruised thigh. Without Alston, West Virginia only gained 25 yards on the ground after averaging 226 rushing yards in the first two games of the season.
"It affected us a little bit," Holgorsen said. "He didn't practice much last week, and he could have played a little bit more on Saturday.
"He will need to practice (Tuesday, Wednesday) and Thursday at a high level to count on him playing Saturday. Do I expect that to happen? Yes, I do."