The long off-season finally comes to an end this weekend when West Virginia plays Marshall on Sunday afternoon (3:30 pm EDT, televised coverage on ESPN/ESPN3). Seriously, has there ever been an off-season that seemed to last as long, or have more drama occur? Let's recap some high/low-lights:
- NCAA investigation into the football program
- HCIW/OC Dana Holgorsen announced to be coming to WVU along with new offensive staff
- WVU embarrassed by NC State in the Champs Sports Bowl
- Holgorsen escorted from casino, reprimanded by AD Luck
- Unproven allegations of more casino antics
- Stewmageddon - Bill Stewart alleged to be source of allegations
- Stewart "resigns" amid internal turmoil in the football department
- Dana Holgorsen promoted to WVU head coach
- Beer to be sold in the stadium
And, I'm probably missing something in that list. Even the resulting shit storm of Rodriguez leaving for Michigan didn't have this much drama. Raise your hand if you would have imagined more drama around Stewart leaving than Rodriguez.
Amidst all of this (and dealing with a personal loss), I have never been so ready for a football season to commence. Getting things back to normal has been hard, to say the least. WVU football is my respite. It is my distraction (which is a big reason I decided to accept managing this blog from Charley) and it keeps me more than occupied.
As much as I enjoy the tailgating, fellowship and the atmosphere surrounding the stadium on game day, it is product on the field that pulls me in and absolutely captivates me. Every year at the first game (no matter the opponent), I walk through the gates fairly early, proceed through concourse and out through one of the portals into the initially sparse main stands. That's when I feel at home.
As the crowd fills in, the team warms up and eventually the band plays its traditional pre-game show...it's a wave of emotions that continually build to game time, kickoff and through the game until we end with "Country Roads".
The new offense will be exciting to watch, of that, there is little doubt. If ever there was a quarterback built for Holgorsen's system, it's Geno Smith. And with play-makers like Tavon Austin and the promising young running backs, this should be a fun team to watch play. With Jeff Casteel still calling the shots, the defense will be solid as well. Plus, I don't remember having someone as exciting (some close, but not quite) as Bruce Irvin suit up for the Mountaineer defense. We have some new traditions to learn to embrace and some old ones to continue and hand down. By the way, the Mountaineer is bringing extra powder to the games this year and has been doing extra pushups in anticipation of more scoring. I hope your arms are in shape for plenty of first downs...and more.
Sunday should be a fun day and, as for me...I'm looking forward to going home once again.
I've foregone the typical preview to relate to you my personal feelings on this coming opening game day. I won't do this often (if ever again). Thanks for bearing with me. Check in tomorrow for an open thread of the first Saturday of football for the 2011 season and again on Sunday for our WVU/Marshall game thread. And don't forget to get your Gauntlet picks in by noon Saturday.
R.I.P. Blondie...love ya and miss ya, always