Notes and Observations from the 2004 Gator Bowl

Thoughts and observations from a lost midweek jaunt to Jacksonville.

The Gator Bowl committee should be commended for running a first rate event. The treatment of the players, the coaches, the families, the fans, and the media by the Gator Bowl and their staff was nothing short of first class. After suffering through some of the first year jitters from the Continental Tire Bowl in 2003, which was still an excellent affair in its own right, it was impressive to see how smoothly the committee ran all of the events throughout the week.

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The same cannot be said for the Official Media Hotel of the Gator Bowl, the Adam's Mark. The Adam's Mark is also listed as the Official Media Headquarters of Super Bowl XXIX to be held in Jacksonville in 2005. How this hotel will handle the rush of fans and media for the Super Bowl after struggling through the 2004 Gator Bowl is beyond my comprehension. Ordering room service on New Year's Eve required a 2 1/2 hour wait. While it is understandable that there would be a wait during such a festive evening, a hotel of this size should be able to accommodate their guests when the hotel is full.

Having served as part of the Gator Bowl, along with weekly NFL football games, the annual Florida-Georgia game as well as several events at Jacksonville Landing, located about 200 yards west of the hotel, hotel staff should have been better prepared for their customers.

Customers checked into rooms that did not have hotel directories, room service menus, remote controls for their televisions and in many instances, rooms that had not been cleaned. And from a media perspective staying in a hotel that does not provide high speed internet access is quite inconvenient.

I guess it is more important to provide 25 different adult films than internet service to the media who are in town to cover the local event.

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The fireworks display on the river for the New Year's celebration was the best show I have ever witnessed. The City of Jacksonville shot fireworks off of two barges simultaneously. Each barge set off the same set of fireworks. It was an impressive show to say the least, and the grand finale would rival the artillery output of some third world countries.

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I don't know which upsets me more; the comments of the smug before picture on the Adkins diet, or the Maryland media openly laughing at the ineptitude of the Mountaineers. It was bad enough to hear the Maryland media trashing West Virginia, but when the Florida media and the bowl people started in with their comments as well, my respect for those hacks went sailing right out the window.

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The players are not the only ones to blame for the horrendous performance in the Gator Bowl. I have always been a proponent of leading by example. And when we arrived in Jacksonville to cover the event, the coaching staff appeared to be laid back, relaxed and confident. But the Garvin episode quickly turned the coaching staff into an uptight bunch who appeared to be in full panic mode two days before the game.

It quickly appeared to translate to the on field play of the team as the Mountaineers clearly went into panic mode after McBrien's first touchdown pass of the game made the score 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Mountaineers had come back from larger deficits this season, but acted like they were down by two scores with two minutes to play, not three quarters of the game.

This coaching staff has an excellent mix of coaches will many years of experience, like Rick Trickett (called Jeff in the Gator Bowl program) and Bill Kirelawich, to go with younger coaches with experiences of their own. If this coaching staff does not possess a level head with the ability to make his own statement when the chips are down, maybe the staff should think about bringing in a sports psychologist to discuss how to better motivate these players during tough situations.

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Ralph Friedgen is less likely to refrain from throwing in a smug zinger than he is of pushing away from the buffet. And it is obvious he's never pushed away from the buffet.

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After scoring their first touchdown of the game, several players celebrated like they'd just won the lottery.

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I also think it is time the defensive staff determines a way to defend the flat pass to the tailback and fullback. Virginia, Miami and Maryland all continue to hurt the Mountaineers with these little dump passes, and there continues to be no Mountaineer within a long distance call of making a tackle.

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It is a shame that the careers of Grant Wiley, Quincy Wilson, Brian King and Lance Frazier had to end on such a miserable performance. These gentlemen are largely responsible for turning this program from a 3-8 disaster into the champions of the Big East.

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Who would've ever thought that a defense could hold a team to 2.9 yards per rushing attempt and lose by 34 points? Maryland rushed the ball 48 times for 141 yards.

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Who would have ever thought that a Mountaineer team would average 5.0 yards per play, yet only score seven points?

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Spotted on the streets of Jacksonville, and in the stands, was this red t-shirt:

Front: "Beat WVU"

Back: "And the ‘Yee Haw' Hillbillies they rode in with"

I'm sorry, but the people that wore that shirt ran into trouble with Mountaineer fans who get a little tired of classless rubes who like to play with fire, they deserved everything they got. And the parents of children who wore this shirt should certainly be proud of the classlessness they displayed in purchasing this shirt for their young children, as well as the lack of intelligence in letting their young kids wear this shirt.


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