By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Turnabout is fair play, or so they say.
West Virginia University coach Dana Holgorsen hopes that’s the case when No. 15/16 Texas Tech comes into Milan Puskar Stadium at noon on Saturday.
Think back a year.
WVU was on top of the world … at least the college football world. The Mountaineers were unbeaten, ranked No. 4 or No. 5 in the nation, depending upon which poll you believed.
Geno Smith was clearing out a spot at home for his Heisman Trophy, such were his numbers.
The task at hand was a trip to Lubbock, Texas, to take on a Texas Tech team that didn’t seem to offer much of a threat.
But lost in it all was the fact that it was homecoming for the Red Raiders.
The journey there was long, the crowd insane, the game crazier yet, and when it ended, WVU was dealt such a blow that it would take more than a month for the Mountaineers to recover enough to win another game.
The final score in Lubbock was Texas Tech 49, WVU 14, Smith’s Heisman Trophy gone with the west Texas wind.
And that was when the crowd came swarming out upon the field, the final seconds ticking off the clock, and some of the West Virginia players thinking the final seconds might be ticking off their lives.
It was a most forgettable moment for the Mountaineers, yet one that Holgorsen has reminded them off all this week.
“Coach Holgorsen’s been showing us that video every day,” said senior nose guard Shaq Rowell. “That wasn’t a good feeling, and I’m not going to lie about that. It was their homecoming, and they beat us 49-14, man.”
Rowell thought about it for a moment, then added:
“Hopefully, we’ll be prepared for our homecoming.”
As stated, turnabout is fair play.
Not that if WVU beats Texas Tech anyone wants fans to be storming the field. The Mountaineer players lead that list, for they recall how scary it was last year.
“We almost had to fight some of their fans to get back. A cop said, ‘If you don’t feel safe, swing,’” Rowell reported, and he wasn’t kidding.
“I mean, we didn’t swing. But honestly, he said that … and he was a Texas cop.”
Rowell had no problem with a celebration.
“We had Geno and Tavon and they beat us, and they enjoyed their victory,” Rowell said. “But I was ready to defend myself, let’s put it that way.”
Considering the way the Mountaineers played defense that day, and for most of last year, it was probably just as well they didn’t have to defend themselves from the festive Red Raider fans.
WVU center Pat Eger remembers the moment well, too.
“It was almost like a smack in the face. The clock was winding down. We got off the field real quick. I went right to the locker room,” he said. “I’m playing this year with a little chip on my shoulder because of it. I’m excited for the challenge.”
Obviously, it is a big challenge for this is a better Texas Tech team than the one that stunned the Mountaineers last year, and WVU is not as talented as the group that went down there and was beaten.
Still, there is home-field magic working for WVU.
Who, for example, could have imagined WVU coming back from an embarrassing 37-0 loss to Maryland on a neutral field to beat No. 11 Oklahoma State, which was the preseason favorite to win the Big 12?
And now WVU must shake off the embarrassment that comes with giving up 73 points to Baylor in a road game, but this win-one, lose-one West Virginia team has shaken off every defeat it has suffered this year.
NOTES: Bridgeport’s Wes Tonkery, now a WVU linebacker, is out for about six weeks with a broken thumb. … Sophomore defensive lineman Christian Brown suffered a weight room injury and is out for the remainder of the season. Even though he has appeared in four games, he still can use this as a redshirt season. … Sophomore cornerback Ricky Rumph left the Baylor game with an injury and probably will miss Texas Tech. … Wide receiver Ivan McCartney has been out with a concussion for three weeks and is uncertain for the Red Raiders.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.