Stewart Discusses Bowl Prep, Activities

West Virginia will scale back practices in preparation for its Meineke Car Care Bowl appearance against North Carolina. While some fans might not like the sound of that, head coach Bill Stewart is using the same blueprint that ultimately led to success in last season's Fiesta Bowl.

With finals over and West Virginia University in recess until mid-January, the Mountaineers are concentrating solely on their upcoming trip to Charlotte.

Head coach Bill Stewart, who spent time in the CFL as an offensive coordinator, has adopted a pro-style schedule for his team during the week, what with no classes or academic responsibilities to take care of.

So instead of spending the morning in classes, going to practince the the afternoon and balancing time in the evening between scouting their opponent and studying for class, it's all football, all day for the Mountaineers.

"We're doing it like an NFL camp," said Stewart, who led WVU as its interim head coach for last year's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma. "We had a walk-through, a lift, some film. We're doing a lot like the NFL does. I talked to some guys I know in the CFL and the NFL and asked what they did during the day. They gave me some ideas and I hope it works to our advantage. That's what we've done."

Stewart and some of the staff will fly out on Thursday night for a couple of days of recruiting before returning the Morgantown on Saturday. The team will fly to Charlotte on Monday, and assume it's normal game-week practice schedule beginning Tuesday. Such is an advantage of playing a Saturday bowl game.

West Virginia last played in Charlotte at the end of the 2002 season. Though the Mountaineers were beaten soundly by Virginia in what was then known as the Continental Tire Bowl, Stewart was able to learn from the experience leading up to the game.

West Virginia's practices prior to that game were long, physical, and taxing. By the time the bowl itself rolled around, many players were physically spent, which certainly showed in the final score.

"We grinded them last time (in Charlotte)," recalled Stewart, who served as West Virginia's quarterbacks coach for that game. "Does that mean we're not working hard now? No, but we grinded them. They had no legs and (the players) were just beat. We learned that. In preceding bowls after that, we learned. After the first two or three, we saw it wasn't working so we changed."

Practices prior to the Fiesta Bowl were shorter, but more productive as well. Instead of grinding until the players had nothing left, the team was crisp from start to finish. Plus, they had plenty left in the tank when the game kicked.

Of course it won't be all work and no play in Charlotte. On Thursday, the team will have a Christmas gathering which will include an encore performance of the popular "Gong Show" from preseason camp.

"The gong show of all gong shows," Stewart beamed. "The seniors begged me. They were grinning like jack-o-lanterns."

Senior All-America punter/kicker Pat McAfee and wide receiver Dorrell Jalloh will play prominent roles in the show, according to Stewart.

The Mountaineers are also scheduled to visit Lowe's Motor Speedway and take part in the Richard Petty Driving Experience if they wish. So far only a couple of players have signed up to partake in the actual driving, but Stewart himself is excited to get behind the wheel.

"Give me those controls! I can't wait to shift! I want drive," he said. "I had a '62 Chevy growing up on the river (in Wetzel County). I put the glass packs on it myself, me and my brother. When the Stewart boys came down the street, everybody in New Martinsville knew."

First and foremost, the trip to Charlotte is a business trip. A win will give West Virginia nine for the season, and four consecutive in bowls. It will also give the senior class the most wins of any class in school history.

Still, the activities planned will also be rewarding for an 8-4 season.

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