The No. 11 Mountaineers (10-1), playing Jan. 2 in the Sugar Bowl versus No. 8 Georgia (10-2), will take finals this week - seven days later than usual at WVU - while lifting twice. They will resume full practices Fri., Dec. 16 through Dec. 22 before breaking for Christmas. West Virginia will reassemble Dec. 26 in Atlanta.
The schedule is similar to many other teams that are playing on like dates. Obviously, games coming earlier require a schedule moved forward the according number of days.
"I don't know if you can (do it any other way)," Rodriguez said. "There is no way to (practice) during finals week. There are so many things with bowls that I guess you could have two-a-days at bowl site. But then you worry about players being worn down. I think this has been time-tested to be successful. The biggest key is to play well during the game."
That's been a problem as West Virginia has lost recent match-ups against Virginia (48-22, Continental Tire Bowl), Maryland (41-7, Gator Bowl) and Florida State (30-18, Gator Bowl). It will make its school-record third consecutive appearance in a New Year's Day or later bowl.
"I think the Bowdens, and talking to Bobby and Tom, know what number and the rank of practices should be," Rodriguez said. "It is very similar to what a lot of coaches in bowls do. We all have friends in the profession and all are remarkably similar. So I feel comfortable."
The approach begs the question: Why would a coach with such unconventional styles as a running spread no-huddle, a 3-3-5 stack defense and a rugby punt adhere to the pace set forth by others, especially when past outcomes have been unsuccessful, record-wise? Rodriguez said that the biggest reason for losing is simple: the other teams have played better. He will not broach the losing streak with the players.
"I don't think it really has to do with the current situation," Rodriguez said. "I don't bring it up. Every year and season is different. Yeah, the other team played better than we did. It's more of a question as to who you play. We played pretty good teams who played well."
Another problem could be the timing of West Virginia's offense. It is so key - more so than power attacks like that of Wisconsin - that it might be a bit off when the Mountaineers have not played for four weeks. That's why this year's schedule, with the longest in-season break in school history and the shuffle of games, could be a major benefit. WVU played its latest regular season game ever, cutting down on the time between the finale and the bowl contest.
"Sometimes your team, during the season, gets on a roll and overachieves," Rodriguez said. "The bowl settles things down and it's harder for them to deal with it."
WVU's offense has been compared to one of two foes who beat Georgia this season: Florida. Rodriguez and Gator head coach Urban Meyer both run a spread, though UF's is a more traditional look. Florida does not run the quarterback as much, or from as many formations. It also shows fewer looks overall. The Gators scored just 14 points against UGA, all in the first quarter, but won 14-10. Georgia was without starting quarterback D.J. Shockley.
That likely won't be the case in the Sugar Bowl, though West Virginia, because of the departure of third-string quarterback J.R. House to baseball, must find another third-teamer. The Mountaineers will choose another young quarterback from its full-shelf arsenal after a few days of practice. All of the quarterbacks can signal in plays. Because of the Georgia Dome noise, WVU could also send plays in via a player, like most teams do.
Dan Mozes, arrested for loud and unnecessary noise and dealing in stolen goods, is being punished for his actions.
"Dan made a mistake with being too loud at a get together," Rodriguez said. "There was a street sign in an apartment that he said was already there. (The police) were upset about noise and Dan is paying the price for it this week and next week and the week after."
He will play in the Sugar Bowl. WVU tailback Jason Gwaltney will not.
"Right now, he is not on the team," Rodriguez said. "Until he makes the off-field commitment, he won't be on team. He should be taking finals. I have not seen him."
Rodriguez, on WVU's BCS bid: "There are teams in the BCS that don't have as good a record as we do. You can say they played in a better conference or whatnot, but I just worry about us."