Check in here frequently for the latest blog thoughts from all of the BGN staffers in Atlanta! We'll be updating this story numerous times during the next week, so be sure to check back often!

1/2 1:25 PM

(Chris Richardson) While the rest of my Blue and Gold News co-workers have been down in Atlanta for several days, I made my way down yesterday. We left West Virginia just after six, and due to a computer glitch didn't have to pay the new $2.00 toll on the Turnpike.

The trip down was full of Mountaineer fans. We had some fun going through Virginia passing some VT fans, presumeably heading south to Jacksonville for today's Gator Bowl against Big East foe Louisville. The closer we got to the Peach State, the more Georgia fans we saw on the road.

Once we arrived in the Atlanta area we headed south to our hotel in Peachtree City. Not even five seconds after we had walked in the lobby, one of the workers at the front desk said "Oh great...West Virginia fans" with a very sarcastic tone. So much for that ol' Southern hospitality, eh? After meeting some Georgia fans later in the evening, I can honestly say that this guy's lack of class was just par for the course.

We headed downtown for the evening and saw the abundance of Mountaineer fans who have descended upon the ATL. Chuck Baker, my youth league baseball coach who was in our traveling party, noted that he saw a flatbed trailer carrying a couch. Hopefully that couch will be a charred pile of rubble by the end of tonight.

Last night was a big alumni party at the Park Tavern. Faces young and old crowded the upstairs and downstairs of the Park Tavern for an evening of fun with Mountaineer fans. Several members of the community made the trip. Some members of the Mountaineer marching band arrived to entertain guests, and fire up the Blue and Gold contingent. Among the party-goers was former Mountaineer defensive lineman Jeff Merrow, whose son Thor will be enrolling at WVU next week as a greyshirt defensive lineman and long snapper for the Mountaineer football team.

We are now just seven hours from kickoff, and the anticipation is building.

1/2 9:45 AM

Atlanta has obviously forgotten about WVU's reputation for having a good time. Several restaurants and events ran short of certain types of beverages the past couple of days. Emergency runs were required to replenish supplies, which were consumed as quickly as they could be pulled off the truck.

Congrats to the Peach State Chapter of the WVU Alumni Association for a great event at the Park Tavern on Monday evening. Estimates ran as high as 2500 attendees for the event, which featured live and DJ-served music, as well as an appearance by the band and cheerleaders.

It was also great to meet a number of people from our message boards and put names with faces. The DJ spun some of Ice750's music cuts, and many in-person introductions were made. Nice to meet all of you!

1/1 4:45 PM

After a boisterous New Year's Eve, WVU's fan base is swelling even larger as the Sugar Bowl draws near. For now, the gold and blue is much more visible than the red of Georgia, but that trend is expected to reverse later tonight and tomorrow as the instate fans begin to head for Atlanta.

Each team could be short a defensive lineman. WVU's Johnny Dingle is still slowed by a virus, and might not be full strength by tomorrow. Georgia nosetackle Gerald Anderson has been limited with a bad back.

12/31 1:20 PM

Coach Rod was still in a good mood after WVU's final serious workouts on Saturday. When asked how much he talks to his players on the sideline during the game he said, "I don't do a whole lot of Oprahs and Dr. Phil out there."

Tonight's Sugar Bowl parade is expected to be a good show, and we'll have photos from an exclusive spot above the action.

12/31 9:10 AM

A funny from yesterday's presser with Calvin Magee. Someone asked him is WVU was prepared to throw the ball if UGA stopped the running game, and if they could throw it 30 times. Coach Magee did a doubletake and said. "How many times?"

Coming up today, Coach Rod interview at noon, then more players at 1:45. Of course, we'll have more stories and photos before then!

12/30 10:10 PM

LSU fans and the early arriving Mountaineer fans have certainly struck up a rooting synergy in Atlanta. LSU fans want the Mountaineers to gain a measure of revenge for their SEC championship game loss to Georgia, while most WVU rooters, who still despise the Hurricanes for their subversive and duplicitous move to the ACC, cheered hard for the Tigers.

12/30 3:10 PM

Coach Rod's post practice press conference has been delayed approximately one hour - a combination of some extra practice time, plus horrendous downtown traffic as a result of the Peach Bowl parade and tonight's Peach Bowl.

The crew made a stop at the famous Varsity restaurant for lunch. The fast paced, high-volume restaurant features menus with cholesterol contents approaching WVU's rushing yardage totals, which makes it not only unhealthy, but first rate. Bill Gleason noted that a Brinks truck was probably required to make visits every few hours to unload the mounds of cash that come in. The Varsity has about twenty ordering lines, and if you're not ready to order, the phrse, "What'll you have?" is barked at customers in rapid fire fashion until an order is heard.

12/30 2:20 PM

A morning of interviews and sightseeing, as WVU has closed its practices for the duration. Although temps remain in the 40s and 50s, it's great football weather - no rain to hinder preparation.

You get the feeling that WVU is being a bit overlooked this week, but that might help the Mountaineers, who seem to thrive on the underdog status.

Our second elevator story of the week: A passerby askes Bill Gleason, who is decked out head to toe in WVU gear, if he's here for a bowl game. After Bill responds, "yes", the guy proceeds to ask him who he's rooting for.

Here's your sign.

12/29 11:55 PM

This year's media gift was the best ever -- a throw with a scene of the field and a big Sugar Bowl logo. Much appreciation to those who picked this gift!

The workers have a lot to handle, including some 450 credentialed media to check in, organize, and herd from here to there.

Those thinking it would be a simple matter to make major changes to an offense or defense in the time before a bowl game need only spend a few moments with a coach to realize that a task such as that would be impossible.

"You really only have two weeks of preparation," Rich Rodriguez said. "The coaches have recruiting in addition to the practice schedule. Beyond that, it's not much more than an open date. You might be able to go back and run something you didn't during the season, but I think it's a big mistake to try to run too much stuff different because you will just mix them up."

12/29 5:00 PM

Curfew for the team begins tonight, and will remain in effect until the game. The players will not be allowed out of the hotel on New Year's Eve. Coach Rod expects more loud noise that night, but hopes the new security in the hotel will help keep things calm.

The buses the team is taking around town are very nice. Photos to come - but it's easy to see how BCS bowls differ from others. It's the added touches like this that make things much nicer. Also, the interview setups at the media hotel are outstanding. Almost have a Super Bowl feel to them.

12/29 3:10 PM

Rich Rodriguez termed Thursday's practice "better" and said he was pleased with the intensity to date. On the hotel front, he noted that things are much better, and that the Sugar Bowl and hotel staff have worked to make things better. Even with the improvements in conditions, Rodrigeuz will still take the coaches and "travel squad" (those expected to play in the game) to a different location the night before the game.

The media lounge at the Westin features a pool table and a pop a shot machine. So far, no one has responded to Kevin's challenges for a game.

12/29 1:00 PM

Wow. Practice space at the Westminster Academy outranks that of the nation's No. 11 team. While West Virginia has superior field surfaces and an indoor facility, the $15,000 tuition Westminster offers adjacent 120-yard grass practice fields, beautifully groomed and maintained, with extra space at the end for lineman drills.

Damp conditions made for a slightly soggy field, giving it a cusion-like feel that was almost too soft. Kickers had difficulty planting, and cuts on all drills were a bit slower.

The Academy, six miles north of Atlanta, sits on a beautifully wooded campus with well-paved roads and brick buildings resembling that of the University of Pennsylvania. The exception? Westminster has a better stadium.

The weather, 45 degrees and windy, made for more of a Charlotte-like feel for WVU's second day of preperation. Thursday is expected to be the coldest day of the week in northern Georgia. The locals? Not taking it like champs. Many were seen on the area's MARTA public transportation system in parkas and toboggans.

Upon boarding an elevator at the team hotel -- quite a feat considering the backlog made by a combination of a 2,500-member Christian Youth Group and three of five hotels being on the fritz --'s Kevin Kinder was asked if his team just finished a walk-through practiced.

"A bit like that," he said, thinking the gentleman was inquiring about his team as a fan.

"You the head coach?"

"Oh, no," Kinder said. "Just media. Just media."

Cam Huffman, staff writer, immediately thereafter: "If that ever happens, I'm immediately laying all my money on Georgia. I don't care what the spread is."

That was between whines about the 45-degree, windy weather. Huffman must have noted that it was "cold" and "very cold" a dozen times, despite that fact that it was 10 degrees warmer in Atlanta than most parts of West Virginia.

Nose tackle Ernest Hunter, on WVU's players losing sleep over the goings-on at the team hotel: "I'm a college student. There is noise all the time. You go downtown, to school, and there is always noise, always parties. I have tunnel vision with this game. I just ignore it and go to sleep."

Said linebacker Jeff Noechel: "I didn't think it was that loud. Coach Rod thought it was. He didn't find it funny when he had to walk up to his room (21 floors) when the elevators were full. That was a pain."

12/28 5:15 PM

Oh my eyes! Anyone in favor of an all gold uniform for WVU just needs to get a look at the practice shirts worn by the Mountaineer QBs at the Sugar Bowl. In past seasons, the practice "hands off" jerseys for WVU's signalcallers were black, but for this game, they've been switched out for gold. The look is a bit, shall we say, overwhelming.

12/28 4:25 PM

It should come as no surprise that Rich Rodriguez has clamped the lid on his practices much more tightly than his counterpart at Georgia. Rodriguez is allowing the media a total of only 1 1/2 hours of time over the first three days of practice, and that is broken into three one-half hour sessions at the beginning of each workout, when stretching and warmups take place. After Thursday, no more media or visitors will have access to WVU's preparations sessions.

When Rodriguez implemented this same sort of schedule for preseason fall practice, we predicted that if WVU had a successful season, ithe more tightly controlled practice sessions would become a permanent fixture. Apparently, that prediction has come true. Now, it remains to be seen if this was the missing ingredient that kept WVU from winning bowl games all those years.

12/28 1:00 PM

Rain held off for the Mountaineer practice session today, although the skies were overcast. If WVU can get past the Thursday and Friday sessions in similar fashion, the coaches will be much more at ease.


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