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WVU center making up for lost time

By Jack Bogaczyk

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Joe Madsen is trying to squeeze as much as possible out of the Orange Bowl experience, and for good reason.

West Virginia's three-year football starter isn't only thrilled in particular about the Wednesday night pairing the Mountaineers got in the BCS draw.

Madsen also is making up for lost time.

Last season, after 12 regular-season starts at center, the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder from Chadron, Ohio, missed the Champs Sports Bowl because he was academically ineligible.

"It's been in the back of my mind all year," Madsen said of his 2010 bowl absence. "I literally couldn't watch the game. It always hurts when I think about it. I can't wait for this game.

"There's been a big chip on my shoulder about last year, and it was like I let my team down, so I've got to step it up now that we're here. I just can't wait to prove myself. I want people to know I'm here to stay."

In the weeks since the Bowl Championship Series pairings were announced and WVU (9-3) was slotted into the Orange Bowl against Atlantic Coast Conference champion Clemson (10-3), Madsen, a redshirt junior with 37 career starts, has been talking up the 14th-ranked Tigers.

"Yeah, I think it's a real good test of what we're made of," Madsen said Monday at WVU's interview session. "Their defensive line is so good, they're all NFL prospects, stuff like that, so it's always good to test yourself against those type of guys."

The Tigers' four-man defensive front averages 6-3, 279 pounds and includes three seniors and a junior. Senior end Andre Branch was third-team AP all-America, and tackle Brandon Thompson second team All-ACC.

"Definitely," Madsen replied when asked if the Tigers on tape are as good as he thought viewing bits and pieces of telecast games. "They're everything we knew they'd be, bug strong, fast, good hands. They're going to come off the sides and try to get after us."

Madsen, who was All-Big East second team, said the WVU offensive front has settled in after playing the late stages of the regular season in flux.

He said that to his right, guard Tyler Rader and tackle Pat Eger would start in the bowl, after being replaced in the regular-season finale at USF by Quinton Spain and Curtis Feigt, respectively.

As the No. 23 Mountaineers finish preparations for the 8:30 kickoff at Sun Life Stadium, Madsen said the offensive line takes encouragement in how they fared against other nationally ranked Tigers this season.

In WVU's Sept. 24 loss to then-No. 2 LSU, Madsen and Co., didn't allow the visitors to sack quarterback Geno Smith.

"LSU is the best defensive line we went up against all year," Madsen said. "It was the best game we all had, too. Hopefully we can re-do that again.

"I think it was just them being so built up, and how good they were. I think it just made us come to their level. As an offense we do that a lot, play to other people's level. In this game, we really need to step up."

Does the ACC Tigers' defensive front compare with the one of SEC Tigers?

"I think they're just as big, just as fast and every bit as strong, so I think we'll just have to come out and do our jobs and finish," Madsen said.

When it was pointed out he didn't also say, "as good," Madsen laughed.

"I mean LSU, they're the top right now, 'he said. "(Playing a team like that) definitely helps. It kind of motivated us, gave us a little more confidence."


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