Changing Up

It's part of Mountaineer lore - how the 1969 football team installed an entirely new offense before the Peach Bowl and rode the wishbone to victory over South Carolina.

Those Mountaineers pounded the Gamecocks with a run based attack and racked up a 14-3 win in the mud of the Peach Bowl, but would such a wholesale strategy change be possible today?

In today's more complex and fast-paced game, installing an entirely new system would be much more difficult. Making wholesale changes might be possible in a month's time, but a coaching staff that decided to do so would run the risk of confusing their team as much as the opposition.

Of course, WVU is facing something of a different task as the square off against a team that has beaten then soundly twice in the last 15 months. While West Virginia might need to change up some things to keep the Terps off balance, it also must realize that the momentum gained by a seven-game winning streak can't be thrown away by suddenly switching gears in the game plan.

Of course, some new items and changes are worked on before bowl contests, and those tweaks are probably going to be even more important in a game between familiar foes like WVU and Maryland. So just how much can be changed without confusing the team and getting away from what a squad does best? It's a fine line that the coaches have to walk.

"You can change a lot, but we want to 'dance with the girl what brung us'," quarterbacks and special teams coach Bill Stewart told "We had a good finish and we got better as the season went on, so we want to stick to what got us to this point.

"We have a wrinkle here and there in all phases. We're going to do some things a little differently on offense in both the running and passing games. And on defense we've made some adjustments and will try to get after Maryland a little bit better. On special teams we're still concentrating on the basics.

"There's not going to be any wholesale changes, though. We have some new tactics we're going to try, and we hope they will work for us."

Although the gameplan was almost fully installed before the Mountianeers broke for Christmas, the coaching staff will continue to evaluate and tinker right up until the last couple of sessions in Jacksonville. Stewart says that putting in something new isn't as cut and dried as simply drawing it up and practicing it once. Watching new tactics as they are practiced can often give clues to even more possibile changes, or provide an indicator to things that aren't working well.

"We'll go down to Jacksonville and see what we are doing well in practice," Stewart said. "The game plan was in last Sunday (21st), but that's not to say that when we get down to the bowl for practice that the defensive guys might say 'this looks pretty good, let's add one more thing,' or 'that doesn't look as good as we thought, let's take it out.' The same is true for the offense and special teams."

As the team hits the practice field today, Stewart is happy with what the team has already accomplished, and believes the team is ready and eager to face the Terrapins.

"We have had eight great practices. I mean eight dandies," Stewart said of the Morgantown practices. "All the players know what we are asking them to do. We are ready to go. And now we are going to go down to the bowl and get after it."

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