By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Always, in an opening game, there is a certain amount of trepidation present, for it really is a journey into the unknown.
The matchup almost doesn’t matter — big school versus small school, football power versus one of the game’s have-nots — for you can’t gauge emotions.
Mack Brown, the Texas coach, probably put it best during Monday’s first Big 12 coaches’ conference call of the season.
“There will be some upsets this weekend,” he predicted.
You don’t know who it will be, but someone will fall, maybe in the Big 12, where quarterbacking is uncertain almost everywhere. It could be North Dakota State over Kansas State or Wofford over Baylor or Louisiana-Monroe over Oklahoma or even New Mexico State over Brown’s own Texas team.
That is why there is concern, trepidation.
“The most important thing is to win the game. You’d like to play well, but you know you’d better win,” Brown said.
Which brings us to the other Big 12 game that appears on the surface to be a gimme — West Virginia University opening at home against William & Mary.
William & Mary?
The Tribe is a team from the Colonial Athletic Conference, a team that was 2-9 a year ago.
West Virginia is being listed as a 32-point favorite.
If you think so, may I show a tape of the West Virginia versus Pittsburgh game in 2007?
And that was a game where you had Pat White at quarterback for WVU, not someone starting his first game for the school.
See, if you didn’t have underdogs, you couldn’t have upsets, and upsets are what make college football such a wonderful thing ... as long as you are the team pulling off the upset.
Ask Lonnie Galloway, the Mountaineers’ wide receiver coach.
He knows something about upsets, considering he coached in what still may be the greatest upset of all time ... on the right side.
You might remember Appalachian State beating mighty Michigan in the Big House.
Michigan was No. 5 in the nation, playing its opener before 101,000 fans against a Division I-AA team, granted the team that had won consecutive I-AA championships, but that just wasn’t supposed to matter.
Yet it ended at 34-32 with Michigan’s last gasp for victory, a field goal try, blocked, the upset complete and the beginning of one of the great ironies in college football history launched.
Who could have imagined just 3 1/2 months later, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr would be replaced by Rich Rodriguez, each the victim of the greatest upset in his school’s history that season.
But as noted, upsets happen, and Galloway understands how.
He knows that Appalachian State team had athletes, four from the three years he coached at the school, good enough to go to the NFL.
Athletes, you see, make plays, and in a game that is to become an upset, it is a play or two normally that turns the tide.
But there is something else, too, that occurs.
“It all depends on how you approach things,” Galloway said when discussing it a couple years ago. “We had everything to gain and nothing to lose playing Michigan.”
Rest assured that William & Mary will have the right approach. They have a wily veteran coach in Jimmye Laycock, who has been there for 34 years and understands what it is like to be cast in the underdog role.
“They are very well coached. Jimmye Laycock has been there for 34 years. How do you maintain your job for 34 years if you don’t know what you’re doing?” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said.
The Tribe may or may not have the athletes, but they will come in with a plan and believing this isn’t a do-or-die game, just a chance to make some history and have fun doing it.
“We went in there thinking we’ll go in there and see what happens. We knew we had the players,” Galloway said. “Watching them on tape we saw some things we thought could work against them. After Dexter (Jackson) caught that pass and went 60 yards, we knew we could play with them.”
Could that happen Saturday?
But Holgorsen knows it could happen.
“Last year they almost beat Maryland; a couple of years ago they beat Virginia. James Madison from that conference has beaten Virginia Tech,” he said. “It goes on and on. Do we want to be next on that list? I don’t think so, so I think we’ll be able to take these guys really seriously.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.