MIAMI - Clemson arrived in South Florida two days before West Virginia. By the time the teams play in Wednesday night's Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium, the Tigers will have been here for the better part of nine days.West Virginia could have followed the same schedule, even though the official welcoming ceremonies for the teams didn't take place until Dec. 29, the day the Mountaineers arrived. But Dana Holgorsen just figured that would have been a bit much for his team."It's called overpreparing. You can overprepare,'' Holgorsen said Sunday, not judging Clemson's schedule, but merely explaining his own. "I don't think we've done that. I think for about 10 practices [in Morgantown] we got a bunch of young kids a bunch of reps and then practiced once or twice on Clemson before we came down, and we've had a full game week here."I don't think we've overprepared. You have to get them to the game at this point.''
Holgorsen, in fact, made it a point not to even introduce much of the actual Clemson preparation to his team until just before giving the players a break to go home for Christmas. The idea was to stay in shape, keep the timing and not make the team sick and tired of studying an opponent.As of Sunday, three days before the game, Holgorsen said he liked where his team is."We've been practicing a lot. We're ready to play,'' Holgorsen said. "That was one of our points early on, when we didn't want to overdo [specific preparations for] Clemson. We've had a lot of practices and guys are looking at us now and going, 'Look, enough's enough. Let's play the game.'"For the most part, West Virginia's obligations and activities will be over after today as far as bowl events are concerned. There is another press conference this morning, along with a trip to a local hospital, and tonight the Mountaineers will watch the Miami Heat play Atlanta.
It's been difficult to juggle all the responsibilities so far, but it just takes putting priorities in order."That's the thing about bowl games. You've got to enjoy all the festivities, but when it's time to meet, you need to meet and focus on football,'' Holgorsen said. "You need to eliminate everything else that's going on and focus on football. You can't focus on football for 18 hours a day. That doesn't happen throughout the course of a game week back home, and it's not going to happen throughout the course of a game week at a bowl."It's all about focusing when it's time to do that. And when it's not, you need to be able to relax and enjoy each other and have a good time.''nn
Dustin Garrison isn't the only player who was injured here in South Florida and is out for Wednesday's game. Most haven't heard of the other.Freshman walk-on Connor Arlia, a slot receiver from Weirton, broke his leg Saturday in a New Year's Eve ski jet accident during a team party."It happened to a kid who has been riding jet skis his whole life,'' Holgorsen said.
While Arlia's absence is of absolutely no consequence as far as Orange Bowl is concerned, Holgorsen said it was still a shame, not only for the player, but because he'd been improving. While the coaches used those early practices this month to get some of the younger players some reps, Arlia was making a move."He wasn't going to play a bunch, but he had put himself in a position where he had improved a lot,'' Holgorsen said.Arlia was still in the hospital as of Sunday afternoon.nn
BRIEFLY: Garrison is still with the team, but he's already undergoing treatments for his knee injury. Holgorsen said Garrison's surgery will be scheduled after the team returns to Morgantown.Garrison was among the first off the buses Sunday when the team arrived at Barry University for an afternoon practice in temperatures that approached 80 degrees. He got off the bus and began walking toward the training room carrying a set of crutches and was admonished by one of the trainers.
"Use the crutches, Dustin,'' she said. "Don't carry them.''High temperatures in South Florida have been in the upper 70s since the team arrived last Thursday, but are expected to dip dramatically on Tuesday, when the high will be only around 60 degrees. On Wednesday, there is a rebound into the high 60s, but by the 8:30 kickoff it should be cool and in the 50s.Ford Childress, the Houston-area quarterback who committed to WVU last summer, has graduated early from high school and expects to enroll in time for spring semester classes and spring practice. He's on a graduation trip to the Bahamas now.
Childress, who threw for 3,588 yards, 47 touchdowns and just five interceptions this season in an offense similar to Holgorsen's, had some late feelers from both Texas and Texas A&M, but according to the Houston Chronicle told both he plans to honor his commitment to WVU.