WED DEC 31 12:10 PM
Press conferences over, and coaches' luncheon underway. Would have been nice to have talked some actual football at this thing. Gator Bowl head Rick Catlett did compliment WVU on deferring all of the attention to Bobby Bowden, but that still doesn't make the one-sided promotions right.
Noel Devine was a late addition to WVU's contingent, which also included Jarrett Brown and Reed Williams.
Williams had the best line of WVU's session. When asked if he thought Bill Stewart would be coaching when he was 80, he joked, "Isn't he 80 already?"
WED DEC 31 8:25 AM
Mountaineer fans in Jacksonville attending the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl can listen to the MSN radio broadcast of the WVU-Purdue men's basketball game on 105.3 (WJSJ-FM Jacksonville).
No. 6 West Virginia and No. 4 Purdue will tip at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 1. MSN's radio coverage will begin at 2 p.m. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN.
WED DEC 31 7:45 AM
All the heavy work is done for both squads, but today is still filled with a good bit of morning and afternoon activity. Both head coaches will participate in a morning press conference, along with selected players (Jarrett Brown and Reed Williams for WVU). A luncheon and a walk-through at the stadium for each team follows, then retirement to their respective hotels for normal game eve activities. For West Virginia, that includes final position meetings and reviews, dinner, and a movie and team get-together.
Low clouds and a bit of fog this morning in Jax,with the weather forecast seeming to change hourly. Highs in the mid-60s today, with ran this morning and afternoon, but hopefully tapering off tonight to let folks out for New Year's Eve festivities. For game day, rain is back in the picture, with a 40% chance, a highs in the upper 50s and wind between 15-25 mph. Ugh.
Staffers obtained a recording of FSU's warchant, and tested it out during the early stages of practice. Apparently it was used several times during later sessions. Hopefully, WVU fans won't have to hear to much of it on Friday.
WED DEC 30 12:45 PM
West Virginia's final big practice for the Gator Bowl consisted of a repeat of Tuesday's work, with an emphasis on mental reps and work against all of Florida State's expected looks.
"It's a typical "Thursday" practice for us," head coach Bill Stewart said, referring to the final day of a typical week when a game is on Saturday. "We'll do a walkthrough at the stadium tomorrow."
A number of players switched jerseys through the week. Today, Brandon Hogan and Jorge Wright did the switch, with the #22 on Wright appearing a bit small. Wes Lyons has sported several different numbers this week.
Special teams work was a big part of Thursday's work, with every aspect getting periods of practice. During individual drills, Brandon Hogan showed his talent, and sharpened his catching skills, by catching a punt while holding three footballs. He caught each one at a time, and took a shot at catching a fifth, but that boot went over his head.
WVU appears to be concerned with Bowden's penchant for trick plays, and worked defensively against a number of different possibilities in the kicking game.
WED DEC 30 8:15 AM
Speaking with Joe Madsen yesterday, the big lineman revealed his night before the game routine. He and roommate Eric Jobe get their snacks, then retire to their room to go over plays and review assignments, with one important addition.
"I always get a ketchup bottle from wherever we are," Madsen said.
Apparently that's a big favorite of the offensive lineman.
Practice continues today with a mid-morning session. There should be a big influx of fans today -- the Hyatt alone is expecting more than 1,000 check-ins over the next day or so.
Great sight at the sports bar last night where we watched the WVU - Marquette game. Simply unbridled joy, and a huge roar, when Da'Sean's game winner went through. Every arm in the WVU section was raised in triumph.
TUE DEC 29 1:30 PM
WVU's Tuesday practice geared down a bit. It was set to run for just 75 minutes, with all of the focus on team offense and defense vs. what the Mountaineers expect to see from Florida State. A bit of heavy contact with pass protection work was to be included, but for the most part the heavy hitting in WVU's bowl preparations is complete.
Head coach Bill Stewart indicated that the Mountaineers are "in pretty good shape" in terms of progress for the game on Friday. No major injuries were apparent, and the team's readiness and preparation have been good.
Stewart also noted that he hasn't had discussions with anyone about entering the NFL draft, or sending in the evaluation paperwork. He will defer that until after the bowl game. Both Noel Devine and Jock Sanders had comments on their NFL aspirations, which we'll have in interviews later today.
NFLer Gus Scott, brother of WVU defensive back Boogie Allen, was in attendance at practice, along with Boogie's high school coach from Trinity HS in Jacksonville.
TUE DEC 29 9:45 AM
This caught my eye at practice yesterday. I'm not an artist, but I liked the composition:
TUE DEC 29 8:30 AM
The parade of events for FSU head coach Bobby Bowden continues, literally, with the announcement of a FSU team walk for Bowden and his players before the game. The walk, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. near Gate 1 of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, is the latest in a series of events highlighting the Seminoles and their long-time coach, who, if you haven't heard, is retiring after the game.
TUE DEC 29 8:00 AM
It can be difficult to draw parallels between a team's overall mood before a game and performance on the field, but for what it's worth the Mountaineers appear to be relaxed and having fun. There's a good bit of banter on the field during practice, and while work is getting done and repetitions logged, the balance between intensity and fun looks to be in good proportion.
Assistant coach Steve Dunlap and the safeties exhibited that yesterday, when they turned a simple drill into a fun competition. In this particular event, Dunlap plays the role of quarterback and has his players read his shoulders, then break on a pass and intercept it. Dunlap was really smoking the ball on his throws, and the players turned it into a game -- drop one and you're out. There was lots of kidding when a drop occurred, but also good competition as the players tried to snare Dunlap's lasers.
Steve Dunlap laughs with his players during the drill:
MON DEC 28 12:30 PM
Back from practice at UNF. Coaches definitely trying to ramp up the intensity, with lots of prodding and quick attention to mistakes. As player interview wrapped up, head coach Bill Stewart shooed them off to their individual drills with more than a bit of urgency.
Jarrett Brown is battling the effects of a cold, but seems to be in good shape overall, and should be fine by Friday.
Defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich challenged his players to get a field goal block during special teams work, and they did just that on the very first kick of the session.
Former Frostproof High School coach Brad Metheny was in attendance at practice. The state native would certainly be a name to keep an eye on when hirings for some of the open staff spots in the Mountaineer program are conducted.
MON DEC 28 10:00 AM
Pat Kirkland, who is taking over Doc Holliday's duties for the game, will also move up to the coaches' booth for the contest. Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said he is confident in Kirkland's ability to handle that phase of the game as well.
Practice a bit earlier this morning, starting around 11:15. Team visits Adventure Landing this afternoon.
Our own Patrick Southern had a nearly 14-hour commute from Charleston to Jacksonville yesterday. Hope he is ready to work today!
SUN DEC 27 10:00 PM
Random notes to close out Sunday:
SUN DEC 27 1:30 PM
Sunday practice will soon be in the books. Head coach Bill Stewart noted that today and Monday will be heavy days for hitting and contact, but that they will be smart about it and try not to wear anyone out or get injuries. Some good hitting in the early parts of practice today.
Stewart said aside from a couple of flight delays, everyone got back on time, and all are reassembled in Jacksonville now. More to come from today's practice, including photos, video and coordinator interviews.
SUN DEC 27 9:30 AM
Hello from Jacksonville! Some of us (Kevin) are on the scene and getting ready to cover today's first practice, which gets underway at 11:45 AM. Others (Greg, Patrick and Taylor) are in various stages of transit.) We'll have interviews with coaches and photos and video from practice today, and we'll verify the arrival of all players as well. No player interviews today, those will begin tomorrow.
Weather is kind of dreary and overcast, but no rain yet. WVU again practicing at the University of North Florida, about 15 minutes from downtown Jax. There are two complete fields side by side (actually used for soccer by UNF) which gives the team a lot of room to work.
I don't have a bad view from my hotel room, either: