When the West Virginia football team played at Tiger Stadium last year, the Mountaineers experienced the pageantry, the color, the traditions and the noise — everything that makes LSU’s famous digs one of the most storied venues in college football.
The stage is set for another magical night under the lights.
This time, West Virginia plays host.
The listed capacity at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown is only 60,000, more than 30,000 shy of Tiger Stadium’s, but West Virginia linebacker Najee Goode said he expects the home crowd to conjure every bit the hostility when No. 2 LSU visits for Saturday’s primetime showdown.
“Our fans, they make it pretty loud,” Goode said. “They make it really loud. We’ve had games here where we played against offenses that couldn’t even hear their own cadence. I don’t expect anything different. We went down there last year and saw all the stuff LSU was doing. We want to match that.”
They will have their chance when LSU comes to town as the highest-ranked opponent to visit West Virginia since No. 1 Miami scored a 40-23 win Oct. 26, 2002.
By holding off Maryland last week, the 16th-ranked Mountaineers set the stage for college football’s game of the week and propelled themselves into the national spotlight.
ESPN announced Sunday that College GameDay, the network’s traveling preview show, will make its first stop in Morgantown. ABC placed the game in its marquee 7 p.m. CST slot with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit on the call.
West Virginia has designated Saturday a “Gold Rush” with fans encouraged to wear gold. Gold rally towels will be distributed before the game.
“It’s almost like a glow around campus just with everybody talking about how ready they are for the game,” West Virginia defensive back Keith Tandy said.
LSU’s early schedule has prepared the Tigers for such an environment.
LSU beat Oregon in prime time to start the season before taking out Mississippi State at cowbell-laden Davis Wade Stadium in a Thursday-night game last week.
The latest obstacle comes against a West Virginia team that is 18-2 in home night games since 2000.
“If we need to create some energy from what’s happening around us,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said, “then I think that will be possible to do.”
The Mountaineers were on the other end of things last year when 92,575 fans — the second-largest crowd to witness a West Virginia football game — cheered LSU to a 20-14 win.
Patrick Peterson had the home crowd rocking when he returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, then struck the Heisman pose in the north end zone. But the Mountaineers scored the next 14 points, pulling with 17-14 in the third quarter.
Josh Jasper’s 23-yard field goal in the fourth, combined with three stops by the LSU defense, helped preserve Tiger Stadium’s Saturday-night mystique.
“It got real loud down there,” Tandy said. “There were a couple of times you couldn’t hear the person next to you.”
The Mountaineers will welcome the noise this weekend.
A small city of fans wearing gold shirts and waving gold towels will bring Morgantown to a national audience. West Virginia football will have its shot on the big stage.
“Ever since we heard College GameDay was coming here and that we were playing under the lights and everything, it really excited us,” Goode said. “We go around school and you see some of the students you know are fans. They’re all hyped up. They’re telling us they’re going to be there.”