Sugar Bowl: Bowl Preparations are Similar

ATHENS – The Music City Bowl holds very different memories for the two teams preparing this month for the Sugar Bowl.

In 2001, Mark Richt's first Georgia team lost 20-16 to underdog Boston College in Nashville. It still stands as Richt's only bowl loss and the Bulldogs' only loss in their last eight bowl trips.

The year before, West Virginia had won the Music City Bowl by beating Ole Miss 49-38. It was the school's only bowl win in its last 12 trips.

Mountaineers head coach Rich Rodriguez has fallen victim to the school's postseason curse. He's 0-3 in bowl games in four full seasons with the team.

"I really can't stress how important it is to us," said West Virginia senior safety Mike Lorello. "It would be spectacular for us to get a win and go out on top."

The Mountaineers have examined their bowl preparation philosophy and planning and come up with nothing to explain the losing streak, Rodriguez said.

"The number of practices you have, the length of practices, it's really very similar to a lot of coaches out there," he said. "All of our (plans) are remarkably similar. I don't think the unsuccessful bowl games of the past has anything to do with the present. I don't even think you bring it up."

Eighth-ranked Georgia (10-2), which will play No. 11 West Virginia (10-1) on Jan. 2 in the Sugar Bowl, has almost exactly the same bowl prep plan, in fact.

"It's pretty close to what we did with Coach (Bobby) Bowden at Florida State," Richt said.

Rodriguez also uses the Bowden bowl plan, at least an indirect version. He worked for Tommy Bowden at Tulane and Clemson for four seasons before taking over as West Virginia's head coach.

"I think it's been time-tested over the years," Rodriguez said. "The biggest thing to being successful in a bowl game is playing well during the game."

Lorello also thinks the secret to success is game day rather than the month leading up to it.

"I don't know if you can find the right formula," he said. "I think sometimes you just don't play as well as you want to in the bowl game. As players, we just have to take it as seriously as we do in the season."

The Mountaineers most recent bowl history has been particularly grisly. They have lost their last three games by an average score of 40-16, and they are a seven-point underdog heading into their Jan. 2 date with the No. 8 Bulldogs (10-2).

"We are optimistic as far as everything goes," senior safety Jahmile Addae said. "You just have to go out and look for the best."

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