Longhorns preparing for chilly reception
MORGANTOWN - Temperatures in Morgantown on Saturday are forecast to be in the mid-50s most of the day. Rain is possible, but not likely. By the time West Virginia and Texas kick off at 7 p.m., the temperature will likely be in the low 50s or upper 40s, and by game's end probably a few degrees below that.
In other words, football weather.
So why in the wide, wide world of meteorology is it sounding like Texas is preparing for sub-arctic conditions?
Well, because most of the Longhorns have never been to West Virginia. They apparently don't know that for early November, these are just downright balmy conditions.
And even if they knew that, it wouldn't change the fact that for the last three months they have trained in Texas. And if Saturday's temps were to drop to, say, 40 to 45, it would be roughly half what the Longhorns have trained in most of those three months.
"We're really excited about it,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said in typical coachspeak regarding both his and his team's first-ever trip to the Mountain State. "We've always heard how great their fan base is and how challenging it is to go there and play.
"And I think it's going to be 46 degrees as the high on Saturday, so it'll be a fun night for our guys and a great trip. Our big guys will like that after all the sun and the heat they play in in Texas. They'll be pumped about it.''
Pumped? Well, perhaps. But by all indications it sounds like they're being warned to prepare for some sort of winter weather event.
"I'm excited to play in what I've seen on the forecast, but I don't want to say I'm way too excited to play in the cold and then you go up there and it'll just be a blizzard,'' said guard Mason Walters. "If it stays like it looks right now, it looks like it's going to be a great day for football from an offensive lineman's perspective. And again, I hope it doesn't get too cold and snow. We need to stay away from that because there's no reason to get the extremes.''
Well, Texas isn't likely to see anything extreme this weekend where weather is concerned. What the Longhorns will see, however, is a lot that they never have. It's not that playing at West Virginia is particularly unique or anything, but the fact is that there might not be a player on the UT roster that has ever even seen a game in the state. Most of the coaches are the same.
The exception is Greg Robinson, who was hired as the Texas defensive coordinator three games into the season after Manny Diaz was fired. Robinson was the head coach at Syracuse for four years, so his teams played here twice.
"I really haven't asked a lot of the others, but I knew Greg had done that and we'll talk to other coaches in our league,'' Brown said of playing in Morgantown. "Coaches, specifically football operations people in the league, really work to help each other so anybody who has been up there in our league last year or early this year, we will call them and ask just what came up.
"It's a hard place to play. Is there anything specific that we need to know about that, are [there] traps or things that might happen that we can try to avoid to help our team?''
There's that remote location thing again that Big 12 teams seem to obsess about when playing West Virginia. Is it remote? Well, of course it is. It's a thousand miles or more away from almost every other school in the league. There's not a major airport.
But it's also not unusual in the Big 12. Try getting to Ames, Iowa, or to Stillwater, Okla., or to Manhattan, Kan. It's an issue because it's new and it seems so difficult, even if it isn't. Texas won't even walk through on Friday because the team will fly into Pittsburgh, stay in Washington, Pa., and Brown doesn't want to waste all that time busing to Morgantown twice.
But the real issue with the Longhorns seems to be weather. Chances are it's just contrived. Texas has played cold-weather games. Iowa State can be as cold as any place in the country. Ditto anywhere in Kansas. Wind chills in both those places make them a lot worse than mountainous West Virginia.
But contrived or not, it is something the Longhorns are thinking about. They'll likely have heated benches and the whole deal on Saturday.
"I think everything hurts a little bit more when it's cold, especially like fingers, your toes get stepped on, things that happen in a normal game,'' Walters said. "But when it's really cold it does hurt just a little bit more. And I think as an offensive lineman, you kind of know that.''
Even if you don't know what cold really is.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1