Bowl Practices Continue Amid Bad Weather

As the snow plows and stadium maintenance staff worked overtime to clear the ice and snow from Mountaineer Field, West Virginia moved inside to continue its preparations for the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day.

The Caperton Indoor Facility may have been packed tighter than a supermodel's suitcase, but Rodriguez was not unhappy with the play on the abrasive turf.

"It gets a little tight when you try to separate offense and defense, but I thought we got pretty good work in," explained the Big East Coach of the Year. "We just have to get outside and I think we will be able to do that tomorrow. I think the weather is supposed to be nice."

One group of Mountaineers that enjoyed the conditions inside was the WVU quarterbacks. With the weather factor taken out of the equation, Marshall and company threw the deep ball quite well, especially in one-on-one drills with the secondary, and made the assignment tough for the West Virginia defensive backs.

Unfortunately, the short game was not as impressive as the tight ends and running backs continually dropped the ball onto the bright green turf and showed why these plays have been at a minimum this season.

The bright spot of the afternoon practice was the enthusiasm shown by Rodriguez's troops. The play was quite spirited, especially during full 11-on-11 drills, as the scout team worked hard to prepare the starters for the rematch. It is clear that the Mountaineers are hungry for revenge as the hitting climbed well above limited contact at times, and a couple of skirmishes broke out in the heat of battle.

"The enthusiasm has been great," said Rodriguez. "You hope it is not fake, and I don't think it is. Our execution is not there right now, but if the effort and enthusiasm stays like it was today we are going to be okay. I think we are really anxious to play a football game."

The injury situation is improving, but there are still some question marks. Kay-Jay Harris continues to wear a green jersey indicating limited contact as well as a heavy bandage on his left hand. Harris is not using his left hand at all and attempted to catch every pass with one hand. The Mountaineer coaches are hopeful that this limited use will help heal the injured digit, but it will still be a concern when the team heads south.

Kay-Jay's running mate in the WVU backfield seems to be doing much better. Quincy Wilson, who missed the regular season finale with an ankle injury, had little trouble making his cuts and appeared to be close to his dominating self.

"He is better," admitted Coach Rod. "He is not 100 percent, but he is good enough to practice full speed. By the end of the week we hope he will be back at full strength."

The biggest question comes on the defensive line, where the Mountaineers have been beaten up like a Muhammad Ali sparring partner, struggling with injuries all season long. Ernest Hunter continues to nurse a deep thigh bruise and was again in a red jersey and did not participate in today's drills. Rodriguez and company fully expect Hunter to be ready for the Terps, but are concerned that he is missing so many reps.

Hunter's teammate on the line, Fred Blueford, was also in a red jersey, after being in a green top in Saturday's practice. "Blue" did nothing but walk laps around the indoor building and seems to be a long way from ready to jump back into the fold.

"We are hoping that he is going to be able to come back, but we are just going to have to wait and see where he is going to be," explained WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. "He didn't have surgery so we are hoping we can get him back. It is still going to be day-to-day, but we want to try to get him some reps."

Practice continues tomorrow and through the weekend before the Blue and Gold is given three days off to celebrate the holidays with its families before heading south to Florida on Dec. 25 to continue preparations in Jacksonville.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories