West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said all along that win or lose against No. 2 Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, Sunday would be the toughest coaching day of the year, as the staff tried to refocus the Mountaineers on the road ahead.
Saturday night, not more than 30 minutes after the Crimson Tide closed out a 33-23 win against West Virginia, Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett had to respectfully disagree with his coach. His mind already was on the next opponent, defending Division I-AA runner-up Towson.
"We're playing the Alabama of I-AA," Trickett said. "They're a heck of a team. We definitely can't sleep on them at all, and we won't. It'll be a night game in Morgantown, and I hope everyone's going to be juiced up about it."
Well, they're not exactly Alabama.
The Tigers were stunned, 31-27, on a last-minute touchdown by Central Connecticut State at home Saturday, their first game since losing to North Dakota State in the Division I-AA national championship in January.
"We ran up against a better-than-expected, better-than-publicized Central Connecticut team," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said Monday. "We've got to find a way to regroup and get refocused from whatever that was. We're out of the frying pan and into the fire to face probably one of the best West Virginia teams, at least on paper, in the last couple years."
Sunday came, and Sunday went. Holgorsen said the sting of a close defeat was motivation enough for his players as they returned from Atlanta and settled in to study game film at Milan Puskar Center.
"We didn't have a bunch of guys that were hanging their heads," Holgorsen said on the Big 12 coaches teleconference Monday. "We didn't have a bunch of guys looking to be patted on the back just because we kept it close against a good team."
Towson knocked off Connecticut, 33-18, in Week 1 last season and rolled to a 13-3 record. But, after replacing a number of pieces on offense, Ambrose knows the Tigers are a long shot against this Division I foe.
"It's still football, no matter who you're playing," Ambrose said. "As many great players as West Virginia has on their roster, they can only put 11 of them on the field at one time.
"We've had some success the last couple years with a rather veteran team against some [Division I-A] programs, but I don't know if we've played anyone with the caliber of talent that West Virginia has right now."
Good start for Big 12
The Big 12 had strong showing in Week 1, despite Iowa State's ugly, 34-14 loss against Division I-AA North Dakota State. Oklahoma State and West Virginia took the No. 1 and 2 teams in the country right to the wire.
The Cowboys held a three-point lead against defending champion Florida State early in the fourth quarter before falling, 37-31, in Arlington, Texas.
"The skill in the Big 12 is as good as any skill that exists in college football," Holgorsen said. "The conference is as good as anywhere. We've all said that as coaches, and I think the more we play on the national level the more people will realize that."
Holgorsen said West Virginia escaped its physical matchup against Alabama "extremely healthy" and added no players to the long-term disabled list. He will address minor injuries at his news conference today.
For more on West Virginia football, read All 'Eers. Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.