Gator Bowl Practice Notes

Although Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez has made a concerted effort to ensure that his team is focused on the task at hand and does not get too caught up in the hoopla surrounding the trip to Jacksonville, sophomore corner Pacman Jones has done his part to keep the practices atmosphere enjoyable.

On more than one occasion, Jones' comments brought a roar of laughter to his teammates and lightened up an otherwise intense practice session. One comment was made when Rasheed Marshall trotted onto the field to lead the offense. "I've got your beeper," Pacman shouted, as he shook his finger with confidence at West Virginia's starting quarterback. Another prime quote came just minutes later as he lined up to defend a pass against the second team offense. "You have the nerve to put Milo out here with me?" he asked, as sophomore receiver Milo Austin lined up in front of him. The question became null, however, as Austin went in motion and Pacman stayed at home to fulfill his zone coverage responsibilities.

Injuries continue to be a concern as many Mountaineers continue to miss important reps. Fred Blueford continued to stay out of the drills, but did run up and down the sideline for most of the two-hour session testing his banged up knee. It does not appear the Blueford will be able to see action this Thursday as hoped, as he has missed nearly all of the game's preparation. Wide receiver Chris Henry was also hobbled with back spasm that he has been suffering from quite often in recent weeks. The spasms began before the team even left Morgantown, and they have continued through the practices in Jacksonville. Kay-Jay Harris continues to sport an enormous wrapping on his left hand, as he continues to nurse a broken finger. On a more positive note, defensive lineman Ernest Hunter is back in action and is taken most of the reps with the first team. It appears Hunter will be able to significantly contribute to the attack when game day rolls around. Offensive lineman Jeff Berk is also coming along well after breaking bones in his hand, and is wearing a much smaller brace this week.

The attitude around the Mountaineer practices at North Florida University has been quite positive, as West Virginia's players seem to truly believe that they can pull the upset. WVU lost badly in last season's bowl trip and was pounded by the Terps in this year's previous meeting. All of the talk has been positive and the play on the field has reflected that positive vibe. The passes have been crisp, the routes sharp, and the camaraderie high.

Rodriguez is determined to minimize the distractions surrounding the New Year's Day game, and has repeatedly reminded his squad that while the fans are on a vacation, the team is on a business trip and came to work. There are, however, a number of activities planned in the next 24 hours. Several of the Blue & Gold players are making their way to a local children's hospital to pay give the youth an opportunity to meet and greet their heroes. Tomorrow, the entire West Virginia contingent will head to the Mandarin Ale House to have lunch at the local hot spot.

Former Mountaineer offensive lineman Brian Jozwiak and University of charleston head coach Mike Springston were among those taking in practice on Monday.

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