MORGANTOWN - West Virginia's football team learned its bowl destination and opponent exactly a month before the game was to be played. That was just over a week ago, and in that time coach Dana Holgorsen has done very little to familiarize the Mountaineers with that opponent.Don't expect him to rush into it this week, either.There's such a thing as too much preparation, and Holgorsen wants to make certain that between now and WVU's Jan. 4 Orange Bowl date with Clemson that he doesn't fall into that trap."You don't want to show them a bunch of Clemson film right now. The game is a month away,'' Holgorsen said late last week after putting his team through the first of the NCAA's permitted 15 bowl practices. "We've talked about this a bunch going back to [preseason] camp. We didn't work on Marshall until about two weeks before the game. It allows them to be students and allows them to rest. They can get back into lifting shape and keep the conditioning.''
Indeed, if Holgorsen were to begin inundating his players with specifics about Clemson now, more than three weeks in advance of the Orange Bowl, there is the definite possibility of overkill. And besides, there are other issues that have to be addressed.First are final exams, which are scheduled this week. After practicing last Friday and Saturday - that was following a week off after beating South Florida in the regular-season finale - the players are off this week until another pair of practices on Friday and Saturday. That also allows the coaching staff time to recruit.After finals are over, the team will squeeze in eight practices before a short Christmas break, during which most of the game-planning for Clemson will be done. That will leave five practices in Miami, Fla., leading up to the game.Holgorsen compares it to spring practice, but in reality it's more like an abbreviated August camp. The first part is working on basics, then getting serious about Clemson before tapering off as the game approaches.It's a routine that Holgorsen has been through before, dating back to his days on Mike Leach's staff at Texas Tech.
"If you look back at the record we've had, we lost the first two,'' Holgorsen said, referring to defeats in the Hall of Fame and Alamo bowls after the 2000 and 2001 seasons. "We didn't do some things very well, but since then it's been pretty successful.''Indeed, following those two losses, the teams Holgorsen has coached for are 7-2 in the postseason - he's never coached at the Division I level and not made it to a bowl game. This will, however, be the first BCS bowl he's been involved in.So what was the difference after those first two years?"I can't tell you. I can't have you writing about it,'' Holgorsen said. "You don't want to wear them out. You want them to be excited about playing. They want to have a good time and we want to allow them to have a good time, but not too good of a time to the point where they're worn out and ready for it to be over. It's a tricky balance.''And one of those tricky things to balance is the actual preparation for Clemson.That's going to be hard enough for a couple of reasons, namely the Tigers' talent at the skill positions and not knowing what to expect - the team that began the season 8-0, the one that then lost three of four, or the one that rebounded to crush Virginia Tech in the ACC title game.
Then again, no matter which Clemson team the Mountaineers end up preparing for, it still can't be overdone."You don't need to practice 15 times against Clemson,'' Holgorsen said.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org