Gator Bowl Notebook

Tuesday's bowl preparations at the University of North Florida took a disturbingly dark turn for the 2003 Big East Champions, as Travis Garvin was sent home for unspecified team violations.

The biggest surprise of the day was watching the offensive preparation without the senior wideout Garvin. A starter at slot receiver for most of the season, Garvin's athletic ability had been utilized by Rich Rodriguez on the ground and through the air.

Garvin achieved a clean sweep of his bowl career, having missed last year's Continental Tire Bowl against Virginia while taking care of family troubles in Florida.

While last year's problems were not of his doing, this year's problems were entirely self-inflicted. It was noted by Coach Rodriguez that the Garvin's problems were not legal matters or curfew violations.

Also surprising was the change in the attitude of the coaches from Monday to Tuesday. It was quite noticeable on Monday that all the coaches seemed to be confident and relaxed. On Tuesday, however, at least three different coaches loudly voiced their displeasure at their respective units due to poor play and a lack of focus.

Milo Austin got most of the reps in place of Garvin on Saturday and it appeared that the entire wide receiving corps would be juggled for the New Year's Day game. Aaron Neal, himself a resident of the infamous doghouse, looks to be the starter ahead of budding star Chris Henry. Henry has struggled with back spasms since before leaving Morgantown, and did not participate in any of Tuesday's full team drills.

Quincy Wilson seems to be back to full strength after suffering a high ankle sprain in the Syracuse game. He appeared to be running at full strength, and did not struggle with cuts or accelerations when he received the ball.

Kay-Jay Harris sported a huge splint on his injured finger, but otherwise appeared ready for action as he took nearly as many snaps with the first unit as Wilson.

The Mountaineers are the third team to practice at the facilities located on the campus of the University of North Florida. The facilities were excellent and it was clear that the university is serious about the sports that they sponsor. The Ospreys sport a 10,000 seat soccer complex, a 1,000 seat softball facility and a 2,500 seat baseball complex. They also sport one of the nicer tennis stadiums I have ever seen at a school of equal size.

Tuesday evening was spent by the staff of the BlueGoldNews attending a media dinner arranged by the Gator Bowl association. The buffet style meal that was provided included chicken & pasta, fried new potatoes, green beans and roast beef. A fresh tossed salad and non-alcoholic beverages were also provided. The meal was excellent and the restaurant was a nice facility to spend an evening. It is a shame that the only other members to take advantage of the free meal among the 230 plus credentialed media members were the crews from WDTV in Clarksburg. Those who didn't attend will not know what they missed. But I wouldn't be surprised if the Gator Bowl association scrapped the event, even though it was well planned and definitely a class event.

Speaking of the hospitality of the Gator Bowl Association, the media hospitality room provided by the association is first rate. Food and beverages were provided free of charge by the Gator Bowl as well as all the media information, including media guides from both schools, bowl media guides, game release information and practice schedules. The Gator Bowl association obviously knows how to run a first rate event.

Another one of the taxing activities that has filled our time in North Florida was a trip to the Budweiser Brewery in Jacksonville. Seeing the process was an interesting experience and a must for any Mountaineer fan that enjoys the frothy beverage. One of the highlights of the tour, however, was not a regular aspect of the tour. The hospitality room in the impressive facility provided free samples of whatever Budweiser product that the customers preferred. The large room was filled with fans in gold and blue, and chants of "Let's Go Mountaineers" echoed throughout the facility. It is always impressive to see the Mountaineer spirit away from home, and it has to be impressive to the locals as well. The reputation only continues to grow.

Tuesday morning also signaled the opening of the Mountaineer Fan Center at the Radisson hotel. A large line waited outside the doors well before the 10 a.m. opening, but it was not an angry wait. Fans greeted each other and told stories of trips to Morgantown and cities throughout the country to follow the Blue & Gold. Once inside, the enthusiastic group was greeted with snacks and drinks, complimentary gifts from many of the schools and departments at West Virginia University, raffle signups, photo opportunities, a merchandise shop and a chance to watch highlights of this year's games as well as memorable contests from the past. All who came left with a smile and a great deal of anticipation for the New Year's Day clash.

Quote of the week: After being seated at Hooters, located in Jacksonville Landing, on Monday evening, our entire group was carded, mainly due to the incredible boyish looks of staffer Cam Huffman. But when our fearless leader Kevin Kinder surrendered his driver's license to the hostess, the following comment was laid forth:

"Wow, that's the same year my father was born."


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