Striking A Balance

West Virginia's bowl practices have been crisp this week, and the focus good, according to head coach Bill Stewart. That still leaves time for players to enjoy themselves, and that approach is important, according to offensive lineman Joey Madsen.

Of course, there's plenty of off-the-field work as well. Players watch film, have position meetings and review game plans at their hotel. Even with those activities, however, there is down time for the team. Joey Madsen believes that is important as the days wind down toward Friday's kickoff.

"I don't feel like you should be focused on the game the whole week, every minute, because you will be all tensed up," said Madsen, who anchors the middle of WVU's line at both center and guard. "In a regular game week, you have practices and stuff, but you also have your regular life."

Madsen makes it clear that he and the Mountaineers are still in Jacksonville to win the game, and that is priority one. However, his point is a good one. Focus on the game all week, with no let-up, and things can get stale. During the regular season, there are classes, get-togethers with friends and the like to break up the routine, but with no classes during the break, and far from home, it's important for the players to have some diversions. Video games, which many players brought with them, are a popular pastime, and so too are some of the activities set up by the bowl.

"We've been out to Dave and Busters and Adventure Landing to look at crocodiles –that was cool," said Madsen. "We rode some go karts, and I was tearing it up. I was the first one back in the pits and I spun a few people out, so I thought I won."

No one was likely to argue with Madsen's assessment, although it strains the imagination to think of a go-kart hauling around 290 pounds. (That probably helped him with spinning others out.) Still, the important thing was that the team was able to get away and do something different for a few hours, and provide that needed break and diversion.

Madsen emphasizes, however, that the most important mission of the week is getting ready and playing well in the game.

"We're still here to win. We are practicing every day, going to meetings and watching our film and their film, and getting familiar with what they do. And by the end of the week, it all comes together."

This year's experience is different for Madsen than last year's trip to Charlotte, in which he knew he wouldn't be playing. During his 2008 redshirt season, he participated in practices, but didn't have to have the same game preparation as those that would be on the field. He still worked hard in practices, but after that there was more attention to the bowl experience. This time, it's different as a starter.

"Last year, we kind of stayed away from older guys after practice. We had our own freshman crew that hung out. This year, it's much different. We have fun, but we're still always thinking about the game."

That on-field focus, at least for the line, is centering on communication. Madsen thinks that's the key issue that has caused many of the blocking and protection problems this year.

"There's no doubt it's communication, and talking along the line. If someone sees something and doesn't say it, then it doesn't get picked up and everyone isn't on the right track. So just going over and making calls and getting it down is the big thing for us.

"It's not a physical thing," he continued. "We come off the ball hard, but if we're not going the right places, it doesn't really matter. We're working on that communication, and on knowing where everyone is and what we are supposed to be doing."

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