WVU arrives for Orange Bowl
MIAMI -- With his team gathered again on location for the Orange Bowl, West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen has the tricky task of manufacturing focus amid all the distractions.
The guy who never seems worried, and mostly because he likes to control the variables, said upon arrival Thursday he is concerned.
"A little bit," said Holgorsen, who owns the school record for regular-season wins in a WVU coach's inaugural season. "You have any ideas?"
Holgorsen will seek the school mark for first-year wins when the Mountaineers (9-3) meet No. 14 Clemson (10-3) at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 4 at Sun Life Stadium.
In preparation for that task, the rookie head coach has some plans in place.
WVU (9-3) will have a strict curfew each night and one that will vary depending on how late the team is out for practice or bowl functions.
"I will be more than happy to send somebody home," he said.
Virginia Tech kicker Tyler Weiss, who became the starter when the kicker in front of him was arrested and suspended last week, missed curfew at the Sugar Bowl Wednesday and was sent home. WVU is staying at the swank Fontainbleau and Miami Beach has as many pitfalls as does New Orleans.
"We'll let them enjoy the activities the bowl game puts in front of us," Holgorsen said. "There are specific things that are going to be readily accessible for them to do and probably some things that are not readily available for them to do. The trickiest thing with these guys is knowing what's right and knowing what's wrong and making sure they follow the rules."
WVU's coaching staff has a combined 98 bowl games to their names. Holgorsen said it wasn't hard to come up with a schedule for the trip.
"We understand how to balance it," he said. "This entire coaching staff got together and talked about what's important. All those guys understand how to win bowl games. We're going to let them have fun with it, but we've got to get some sort of routine to where we get a good week of game practice."
The Mountaineers will practice four times at Barry University, beginning this afternoon. They'll have a beach party at their hotel Saturday, a team dinner at the Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chao Sunday and visit the Baptist Children's Hospital Monday. They also have interviews before practice today and Sunday and at the Harbor Beach Marriot Resort & Spa Saturday and Monday.
"We'll go get them settled at the hotel and give them their itineraries and make sure they understand they need to be where they're supposed to be when we tell them to be there," Holgorsen said. "We want them to enjoy this week. This is a reward -- and a big one -- and we want them to enjoy it, but we also want them to understand when it's time to get to football, it's time to get to football."
* * *
THE BCS IS 14 years old and Holgorsen is just one of seven coaches to take his team to the BCS in his first season overall as a head coach. This season, Stanford's David Shaw did the same as he led the Cardinal to the Fiesta Bowl.
Holgorsen was on 11 other staffs that played in bowl games and his teams at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State were 7-4. He's been a part of seven wins in his last nine postseason games.
"I've been to some pretty good ones, but everyone I talk to across the country, whether they've been to this one or not, says this is one of the most anticipated games of the whole bowl season due to the fact they've been playing the game here since 1935 for national championships and in games I grew up watching," Holgorsen said.
"This is a pretty big experience. I can tell there's going to be a festive environment right now with all these guys in orange coats. They want to make sure everyone has a good time."
* * *
HOLGORSEN SAID he spent his break in Houston and other parts of Texas and Louisiana "just hanging out," but rounded up his three children Wednesday and traveled here. The entire team arrived Thursday with most greeted at Miami International Airport by a welcome party and a brief press conference. Players from nearby who didn't need to fly here met the team later in the day.
Holgorsen said there were no surprise absences and the only players not with the team were Division I transfers who sat out this season and freshman running back Vernard Roberts, who is academically ineligible. Holgorsen called Roberts a "reserve, backup guy of little importance," which would seem to cast doubt over his future with the team. His twin brother, Vance, was a cornerback who left the team earlier this season.
* * *
WVU WILL DO a lot of driving on the trip. Their hotel is 12 miles and about 20 minutes without traffic from where they practice. The hotel is 30 miles and at least 45 minutes from the Marriott where the press conferences will be held. The Brazilian steakhouse is 15 minutes from the team hotel and the children's hospital is 20 miles and at least 30 minutes from the team hotel. The game is 15 miles and at least 25 minutes from the team hotel.
The Mountaineers will travel in style, though. They were taken from the airport Thursday by six charter buses. Two were WVU-themed and featured action shots of fullback Matt Lindamood, receiver Devon Brown, long snapper Cody Nutter, defensive end Bruce Irvin, receiver Ivan McCartney and linebacker Taige Redman.
Holgorsen all the time spent traveling in those buses make for pretty good advertisements for a school that heavily recruits this area.
"The exposure in South Florida is big," Holgorsen said. "Obviously this is a big recruiting base for us. We've got at least a dozen kids from this area and we're recruiting probably another dozen kids we want to be Mountaineers.
"That's big for us, but the overall aspect of being in a BCS game in the Orange Bowl, which dates back to 1935 and has a tremendous amount of exposure on national TV and with as many good games as they've had through the last 80-some years, that stuff can only help. That kind of exposure from a national standpoint is as important as anything else in recruiting."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.