One of the few starters on the Mountaineer offense with significant experience at the FBS level, it was Sims’ fourth season opener. He had been there before, in a way. He knew what it felt like to play in a major college football game.
But this wasn’t any other game.
Before Saturday, the largest home crowd Sims played in front of during his time at the University of Houston was the 32, 413 people who filled Robertson Stadium for the Conference USA title game in 2011. That was when the Cougars were undefeated and playing for a conference championship.
This time, against an FCS opponent in the first game of the season, Sims played in front of nearly double the amount of people he had ever played in front of. That made playing in a different uniform for the first time the least weird thing about Saturday’s win.
“It wasn’t just another game,” Sims said. “Playing in front of 60,000 people – that’s what was unusual about it.”
And Sims responded to the challenge well, helping lead the Mountaineer offense to the 24-17 victory by carrying the ball 22 times for 120 yards and a touchdown. It was the third-most carries Sims has ever had in a game in his career, and only the fourth time a running back has run the ball at least 23 times during Dana Holgorsen’s tenure at WVU.
“I didn’t even realize I had that many carries,” Sims said. “I was just going with the flow of the game. I was having a lot of fun.
“I wouldn’t say that (I’m a workhorse), I was just going with the flow.”
As West Virginia gets ready for an Oklahoma game this week that will have a raucous crowd of more than 80,000 in attendance, Sims has the answer of what it’s going to be like playing in front of a bigger crowd. Now, he can continue to focus on the task at hand: Doing what he can to help WVU win football games.
“Just getting out there and playing with the guys will help him. He’s played a lot of football obviously,” Holgorsen said. “He’s been a three-year starter, and he’s been in big games before. He played against a lot of good teams in the past, but he had never played with the Mountaineers before.
“He had never been on Mountaineer Field and he hadn’t played with his West Virginia teammates. Just getting out there and getting rid of those jitters, I think, will help him in the future.”