NCF Nation: Jared Barber

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's not going to apologize for it.

Simply put: With five months and two weeks before the Mountaineers' first Big 12 game against Baylor, West Virginia's players aren't exactly experts on their new conference home.

"I know that it’s one of the more dominant conferences. They’ve got a lot of good teams," receiver Stedman Bailey said. "That’s pretty much all I can say."

Bailey has never stepped foot in Oklahoma or Texas, where six Big 12 teams -- more than half the new league -- reside.

"I know of a couple receivers from Oklahoma, and that’s about it. I really don’t know much of who’s who in the Big 12," he said.

West Virginia's players know they're in the Big 12. What else, though?

"I haven’t really heard anything about it. I really don’t pay attention to it," receiver Tavon Austin said.

Said running back Shawne Alston: "I knew Coach [Dana] Holgorsen used to coach there, and Texas was there. Not really too much else."

Linebacker Jared Barber's favorite team was Texas growing up, but since he signed with West Virginia, his focus has been on the Big East, where WVU took home a league title in 2010.

Said quarterback Geno Smith: "Aside from watching like Vince Young, I don’t know much about it."

It's no accident. That's exactly the way Holgorsen designed it this spring.

"It’s about us right now, it’s not about who we play," he said. "Once the Maryland game is over, we’ll be solely focused on Baylor."

Baylor alone, though. Holgorsen won't be sitting his team down to talk big-picture issues about the move to the Big 12. Every week, it'll get a crash course on what to expect on the weekend.

"We’ll talk about our opponent from a familiarity standpoint," Holgorsen said. "From a venue standpoint, if we’re playing them there, to what color their uniforms are, how big their stadium is, how loud their fans are to what their schemes are, some familiarity with who their players are. All that stuff will take place when we’re going to play that opponent."

That stands in contrast to TCU coach Gary Patterson, who lacks Holgorsen's nine years of experience coaching in the Big 12 but said earlier this spring that he has every 2011 Big 12 game on a DVD, and watches them constantly.

Not so much for Holgorsen.

"That’s just his confidence," Smith said. "I believe we’re not to that stage right now, worrying about other people. Right now, we’re focusing on getting better as a team and everyone getting better individually."

Once he broaches their new opponents each week, Holgorsen's evaluation to his team will be extensive, beyond just what to expect between the white lines once the game starts.

"The more information we can give them to know your opponent, the better prepared they’re going to be. That’s the whole deal," Holgorsen said. "This is what the airport’s going to look like in Lubbock, Texas. Here’s what the drive’s going to look like. Here’s what the fans are gonna say. All that stuff gets your team focused on what to expect."

Players like Austin might not know much about the Big 12, but they know one big truth about what's going on in Morgantown this spring.

"This is our chance to go in and do the one thing that West Virginia never did before: win the Big 12," he said.

1Q: Clemson 17, West Virginia 14

January, 4, 2012
MIAMI -- Hello, offense! We have been expecting you.

Clemson and West Virginia were locked in the expected fireworks show in the highest-scoring first quarter ever of the Discover Orange Bowl. Clemson running back Andre Ellington opened the scoreing on a 68-yard run right up the middle of the West Virginia defense. Linebacker Jared Barber could not get off a block, and Darwin Cook took a bad angle for a tackle -- and Ellington was off for the third-longest run in Orange Bowl history.

Then it was Shawne Alston with a 4-yard touchdown run to get West Virginia on the board. True freshman Andrew Buie had the highlight on the drive, when he rolled over the back of would-be tackler Rashard Hall without allowing his knee to touch the ground.

Sammy Watkins answered with a 27-yard touchdown reception of his own later in the quarter -- marking the first time this season the West Virginia defense has given up multiple scores of 20-plus yards in a game. The touchdown also was the Tigers' 56th of the season, a new school record.

Then it was time for Tavon Austin, who scored on a 5-yard run. Austin, who came to West Virginia as a running back, is being used plenty out of the backfield -- he already has three carries for 25 yards and a score -- with Dustin Garrison on the sideline.

The longest scoring drive of the four in the first quarter belongs to West Virginia: Two minutes, 39 seconds. Each team has a touchdown drive that lasted under 2 minutes. Yup, this one has the feel of the back-and-forth shootout we all expected.