Tailored To Fit

Last week we looked at the history of bowl preparations at WVU, and their success and failure. Today, we'll examine this year's practice schedule and how it fits the nature of the 2002 Mountaineers.

In last week's article, we decided that there is no magic formula for preparing a team for a bowl. The key if for the coaching staff to devise a practice and off-time formula that best fits the persona of their particular team.

With that in mind, how do this year's Continental Tire Bowl preparations fit the West Virginia football squad?

First, Coach Rod wisely gave his team a few days off during and after finals. Since the team won't be home for Christmas, giving the players at least a fighting chance to get home for a weekend before holidays seems to be a preemptive strike against what will surely be a few holiday blues come next Wednesday.

Second, the staff has split bowl practices almost evenly between Morgantown and Charlotte. WVU will practice four days on campus, travel to Charlotte with two days off, then practice four more days in the Queen City. That split schedule should allow for bumps and bruises to heal, and also keep interest high, as the players won't be staring at the same scenery for session after session.

When the obligatory media sessions and bowl activities are added in, there probably won't be a great deal of unstructured free time for the players once they are in Charlotte, but that seems to be in the best interest of this team. While senior leaders like Avon Cobourne, Lance Nimmo, David Upchurch, Angel Estrada and Tim Love don't need to be told what to do to get ready, there are a lot of young Mountaineers on this team that have either never been on a bowl trip, or who have never played in one. Keeping a structured approach in place would seem to be the best for the growing Mountaineer program.

All season long, the coaching staff has worked on making road trips similar, so that the routine becomes familiar. When players know what to expect, they are often more relaxed. With that in mind, the staff has set up a routine for this bowl game that their team should be able to fall comfortably into. Practices, for the most part, are at the same time every day. Coach Rod has said that he will try to conduct the game week as closely as possible to a regular game week during the season. All those things point to staying in the same groove and keeping to the same routine that led to WVU's four game winning streak at the end of the season -- a streak that everyone around the Mountaineer program would like to see go to five.

Of course, there are going to be distractions. The team hotel will be packed with fans. There will be more media sessions and interviews than normal. The anticipation provided by the ticket sell-out will build pressure. However, on the surface, it appears as if the coaching staff has done everything possible to keep the Mountaineer program on the same track that lead to their great season. Like many other strategies, though, we won't be able to judge the final results until after the game has played out.

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