WVU Camping World Bowl Notebook
ORLANDO, Fla. — West Virginia began its Christmas Day football practice session with a showdown of epic(?) proportions.
It wasn’t quite on the level of the Thanksgiving Day Tiger vs. Phil match-up on the golf links, but the 100-yard race between Director of Player Personnel Ryan Dorchester and Football Associate Athletic Director Alex Hammond did serve to get the team fired up and ready to practice on a day when some might have been missing their families.
“Anything for the team,” a somewhat wiped-out Dorchester said after taking the win over Hammond.
The entire team, coaches included, watched as the duo sprinted the full length of the field, critiquing their running styles, speed and form throughout. That set the tone for a spirited practice session that included some classic Christmas tunes over the sound system.
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That was just one of several ways in which the football staff has been trying to boost morale and keep the team engaged as they prepare for the Camping World Bowl against Syracuse. Wide receivers coach Tyron Carrier came out dressed to play in football cleats, something that wide receiver David Sills says he has been doing the past couple of weeks.
“I guess he is trying to bring back the old glory days,” Sills joked. “He’s trying to show us how much better he can do his drills than we can, which kind of sucks, but he was a good player.”
Sills, along with offensive lineman Colton McKivitz, noted that the day definitely had a different feel than a normal Christmas, but that there are benefits to it.
“Christmas Day is when you’re sitting around the tree with your family and everything, so it really doesn’t feel like Christmas Day, but it’s a great time of year to be playing football,” Sills said. “If you can play football at this time, then you’ve had a pretty successful season. We’re excited about being out here practicing.”
McKivtiz likewise observed that the 70-degree temperatures and busy bowl schedule didn’t lend itself to the Christmas feel, but that there was an advantage to delaying the family celebration.
“We still have that to look forward to,” he said of the family time and opening presents that will take place when he returns home from Orlando.
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Judging the enthusiasm level of a team for a bowl game is a dicey proposition at best. A team can look great and appear engaged during practices (recalling WVU in the Continental Tire Bowl here) and then lay something of an egg in the game. Or, it can be like 2017, when there appeared to be little enthusiasm for the moribund Heart of Dallas Bowl, and that clearly translated on the field.
This year there seems to be a bit of juice on the team for this game, according to both the players and a couple of other sources. While that didn’t translate to West Virginia’s fan base or its ticket sales, the players on hand have, according to most accounts, been engaged and upbeat for the chance to end their season on a positive note.
“And you can tell with this bowl right now, even back in December back home, they were excited about getting back out there,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “Now, that was coming off a couple of losses, some heartbreakers, and I think we needed football at that point to get back out and start working and start doing some things. They approached it well, and we went out and had that first practice and there was a lot of juice, a lot of energy and it has continued to carry on.”
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The mix of fun and work has been a good one for the Mountaineers. They have had a trip to Universal Studios, wll enjoy a trip to Best Buy to spend their gift cards, and are set for a Wednesday trip to a local go-kart complex with children from the Orlando area. After that, the focus turns to football, with the Mountaineers conducting another walk-through to complete their Orlando practice sessions.
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The WVU band had an inauspicious start to its trip. One of the buses in the caravan broke down no more than a few hundred feet from the College of Creative Arts in Morgantown, delaying departure for just a bit. However, it was reportedly fixed quickly to get the group on its way to Orlando.