There is always one guarantee when WVU takes the field in Morgantown, the crowd will be rocking — or at least that’s what we thought. Yesterday, it was announced that WVU would not be allowing spectators at the season opening matchup against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. Much to the displeasure of fans, Mountaineer social media has been a hot mess ever since. But when aren’t they, am I right?
Though it has not been brought up by anyone (at least that I have seen), what this does now is even the playing field between the Mountaineers and the Colonels. Yes, EKU is a program in the FCS and does not possess the talent that WVU has, but the crowd always plays a factor in games where the opponent is not used to 60,000 fans breathing down their neck.
I am a firm believer that no opponent should be overlooked, we all should be. However, WVU absolutely cannot take the Colonels lightly now. Everything will be different. There will be no third down noise, no roars of the crowd after touchdowns, no cheers after a big defensive takeaway…nothing. It will be completely silent within the confines of Mountaineer Field, and this is where it will get tricky.
The Mountaineer will have to as Neal Brown calls it, “bring their own juice.” The energy among the team must be absolutely 100% authentic. This will be an unusual spot for the players, and they will have to fight with every inch of themselves to make the most of it.
While it is okay to look at this game as a win for WVU and a big paycheck for EKU right now, when I will begin to worry is if the Colonels take an early lead. Much like we have seen last year against James Madison, and all the way back in 2016 against Youngstown State, the crowd sometimes helps the Mountaineers overcome FCS opponents. With this not being an option, it has to be West Virginia’s goal to get ahead early, and stay on top of the Colonels in pursuit of starting the season 1-0. They have to come out firing, and any rust must be shaken off prior to kickoff.
Of course I believe WVU will get the victory against Eastern Kentucky, but my overall anxiety about the game has went from a 2/10 to an 8/10 after the announcement. It will be different for us watching at home, and it will certainly be different for the players. Hopefully West Virginia can find some familiarity with the silence early in the contest. If not, they may just be in for a fight.