Wednesday was one of those nights about which every sports fan dreams, but not many get to experience.
It was, perhaps, the greatest day ever to be a Mountaineer.
Start with the basketball game. West Virginia was on the road for a Big East game. Faced with the same situation just five nights earlier, the Mountaineers had given perhaps their worst performance of the year, scoring just 48 points in a stunning 19-point loss at Seton Hall.
But coach Bob Huggins' team obviously had forgotten about that performance. Rather than struggling against an average Rutgers team, the Mountaineers salted away their 11th win early, taking a 51-26 halftime lead en route to an 86-64 win and leaving WVU fans plenty of time to tune into the most important game of the night, the Mountaineer football team's appearance in the Orange Bowl.
Little did anybody realize that before the night was over, West Virginia's football team also would outscore Rutgers' basketball team.
Although WVU was playing in its third BCS bowl game in seven years, it was getting about as much respect as it commanded in the two previous appearances.
Virtually every so-called expert was picking Clemson, most in a rout. A poll on ESPN.com showed 49 states and the District of Columbia were going with the Tigers. The only ones who believed in West Virginia lived in the Mountain State. That's the exact same scenario that had played itself out in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, when West Virginia was supposed to be the cannon fodder for heavily-favored Oklahoma and left Arizona with a 20-point victory.
Unflappable WVU coach Dana Holgorsen took all the predictions in stride, accurately pointing out that West Virginia has a history of playing its best football when its backs are against the wall. That certainly was prophetic as West Virginia certainly played its best football. It embarrassed a solid Clemson team that twice had beaten Virginia Tech. Even the 70-33 final score doesn't reflect the magnitude of this blowout. If West Virginia had wanted, it could have had several more scores. Clemson's defense had no answer for Holgorsen's offense and its two stars, Geno Smith and Tavon Austin, both of whom were unstoppable.
Just like the Mountaineer basketball team, the football team had all but secured its victory by halftime thanks to a 35-point second quarter that led to a 49-20 lead at intermission. Just as West Virginia had stunned Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl and Oklahoma two years later in the Fiesta Bowl, oops, the Mountaineers had did it again.
Did it under a first-year head coach who didn't know he was going to be the head coach until June. It's been a wild ride for West Virginia's football program, but a ride that couldn't have had a more storybook ending. What in all likelihood was WVU's last game in the Big East became a record-breaking one as the Mountaineers scored more points than any team in the history of college bowl games.
There's no doubt Holgorsen is an offensive genius. Note that all three of the teams he has coached in the last three years Houston, Oklahoma State and WVU won their bowl games.
The future looks bright in Morgantown. Smith and Austin will return along with many other key performers. The recruiting class is looking strong. It includes one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in Texas, Ford Childress, who signed with WVU because of Holgorsen and his offense. College programs are indeed all about the head coach. It's their responsibility to sell high school seniors on their program and to set the philosophy for how business will be conducted.
When I wrote a strong endorsement of Holgorsen early in the season when WVU was struggling, I got bashed for taking what then was an unpopular stance with some. Now, the same words would receive nearly unanimous support.
West Virginia has had an incredible seven-year run. In addition to the three BCS bowl wins which have come in three different bowls (hey Rose Bowl, we want to hit for the cycle) -West Virginia has recorded 70 wins, an average of 10 per year.
The challenge now is to attempt to maintain that lofty standard as a member of the Big 12.
The one thing no football coach can control is the quality of the opponent and make no mistake the quality of WVU's opponents in conference games is about to be significantly elevated.
No more games with Rutgers, which beats you once every other decade. Even the weak sisters of the Big 12 can win on any given Saturday.
Rather than having to beat Louisville, Cincinnati and Pitt to win a conference title, WVU will be facing the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor. Once league play begins, every game will be a challenge. Just ask Oklahoma State, which lost out on a chance to play for the national title thanks to being upset by Iowa State.
West Virginia couldn't be entering the Big 12 at a better time. It has enough returning talent to compete against any league member. It has established the reputation to bring in the recruits necessary to make that an annual happening. It has a coach who knows Big 12 football and what it takes to win in that league.
Yes, Wednesday was a magical night we never will forget. Let's hope it is one of many in a long line of memorable West Virginia sports accomplishments.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org