Katrina Hits Close to Home

For the past several days, many casual observers have been noting the progress of Hurricane Katrina as the storm made its way through the Gulf of Mexico. For some in the Mountaineer football program, they were watching, and praying.

A quick glance at the Mountaineer roster shows that there are plenty of roots in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. In addition to the players, several members of the Mountaineer coaching staff have roots in the deep south.

"There's been a lot of guys on the staff, and a lot of guys on the team that have paid close attention to it. We were really nervous last night when it looked like it was going to be a direct hit," said head coach Rich Rodriguez, who lived in the area during his days as offensive coordinator at Tulane. "Having lived on there for a couple of years, the biggest nightmare was a direct hit, since it's under sea level already. I think they're taking a hit right now, but it's not as bad as we thought."

One Mountaineer assistant, offensive coordinator Calvin Magee, was in New Orleans this weekend for his mother's funeral, and made it out just in time.

"He left early yesterday, and he had to drive back so he got back just in time for practice today," said Rodriguez.

Sophomore spur Tyler Benoit noted that he was watching things closely, but after talking with his family had no need to worry.

"I talked to my family, and everything is ok, so I'm just keyed up for the game right now," said Benoit, who will make his college debut on Sunday when the Mountaineers visit Syracuse.

Benoit and some of his teammates have been through this before, having grown up in the area.

"It's a lot of rain, and winds, but nothing too scary. I wouldn't want to be in it though," said the speedy sophomore.

"They always say a big hurricane could come in and tear New Orleans off the map. It never really happened and I figure God will take care of my family," added defensive lineman Craig Wilson.

Wilson also noted that his family made it out OK.

"My mother went to Baton Rouge," he said. "Once I heard that my mother and my brother were doing fine, I was able to focus on football."

Coach Rodriguez shares the sentiments that the last couple of days have been a trying time for everyone with ties to the area.

"I know it's a mess down there right now. All of the coaches and players are praying for the families, and we have a lot of families down there that are tied to us," said Rodriguez.

With the worst of the storm having come and gone, the Mountaineers are hoping to keep their focus solely on Sunday's opener.

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