WVU Ready For Cavs Trickeration

Thursday morning in Charlotte resembled more of a Morgantown morning than any day in the Carolinas, but the Mountaineers were not deterred from their preparations for Saturday's clash with the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the inaugural Continental Tire Bowl.

Coach Rich Rodriquez moved Thursday's practice up from its regularly scheduled 10 a.m. start to a chilly 8:00 a.m. at the Carolina Panther practice facility outside of Ericsson Stadium in an effort to get the Mountaineers' blood pumping during their last full workout of the 2002 football season.

The Mountaineers spent the morning in shirts and sweatpants during their last workout, running their normal drills on offense and defense, as well as working on some specialized plays the coaches have designed based upon some tendencies found during studies of films of the Cavaliers.

Rasheed Marshall looked crisp on his throws as the steam rolled off the players' heads in the chilly morning air. Avon Cobourne, sporting the #4 for morning drills, was quiet and calm as he prepared for his final game as a Mountaineer.

Asked after the practice about Virginia's run defense, which ranks 104th in the nation against the run, Coach Rodriguez was quick to point out that Virginia suffered from youth across the board early, but solidified late to shut down both Maryland, who manhandled the Mountaineers in early October, and North Carolina State. The Wolpack, after winning ten games for the first time ever, will be playing in the Gator Bowl against Notre Dame, in a game that both schools who will be playing in Charlotte feel like should be theirs.

"They are as talented and quick as anyone we have played. They are different from anyone we have played," Rodriguez said. "They line up in a pro set and get after you, but after two years here at West Virginia, we have faced just about every defense that is run. They come after you, and make you earn your way down the field. They really try to limit the big play.

"You have to be patient against this defense. You can't let it frustrate you, as a team and as a play caller. You have to be patient, and not get frustrated when the big plays aren't there. And that is tough as a play caller because that is what our offense likes, the big play. But we have learned patience, and I think we will be ready," said Rodriguez.

In response to a question about Virginia and their affinity to run and be successful with trick plays, Coach Rodriguez indicated that his team is as prepared as you can be against trick plays.

"You can't design your entire game plan to stop trick plays, but you don't want to give them a cheap one. You want to make them earn it. They will run their trick plays, and probably one or two that we haven't seen.

"But so may we."

The Mountaineers seem to be focused and ready for the upcoming game on Saturday. And the coach thinks the team will be able to keep away from the distraction of their families and friends coming to Charlotte for the bowl experience.

"We have told the players that these people are coming down here to party and have a good time, but we are here for the opposite. We think we can keep them busy enough to keep the distractions to a minimum. It is all mental from here on in. They all know their assignments and duties."

"If we aren't ready now, it is too late to worry about it."

WVU's players will travel to Lowe's Motor Speedway this afternoon for a visit, then have a final walkthrough Friday afternoon on the playing surface at Ericsson Stadium.

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