Coach Holgorsen and the Mountaineers have arrived in Orlando, Florida in preparation for Wednesday’s Russell Athletic Bowl versus the Miami Hurricanes. On Friday afternoon, Coach Holgorsen addressed the media one final time before the bowl game, giving an inside look at to where the football team stands as they look to gain win number 11 for the 2016 season.
As many know, the State of Florida is a recruiting hotbed and has been exceptionally fruitful for West Virginia over the years. “Florida is important to us, there is no question about that. Central Florida has been really good to us in the past, getting guys like KJ Dillion and Karl Joseph. That’s been good, the whole state has been good to us.” Florida has brought Mountaineer nation a great number of fan favorites throughout the years and a win in this bowl game could definitely generate interest from recruits on the fence.
With bowl season coming after a several week break, players are finally able to take a little time to rest and get ready for the season’s final game. “We took two weeks once the season was over and healed up. We were pretty banged up there for games 11 and 12. We have almost everybody back. They got their legs underneath them. We got a few developmental practices in, which that is never enough. Another thing that gets overstated with bowl games is the importance of being able to practice developmental players. You don’t have a whole lot of time to do that when it comes to recruiting, finals, holidays, that sort of thing. We got a few of them in, we are able to work them out a good bit to make sure they stay in shape.” Keeping players healthy is one of the most important part of winning football games, so to hear that almost everyone is healthy and ready is music to everyone’s ears.
Equally as important to physical health for the players is their academic eligibility. Coach Holgorsen gave fans an early Christmas gift by announcing that the team did not lose any players due to academic ineligibility for the post-season. “We ended with a 2.53 team GPA, which is the highest it’s been since I have been here, tracking it back since 2011. Zero academic casualties and a big shout out to her for doing a fantastic job for our football program.” There is a reason players are student-athletes and having the entire academically able to play is a great way to go into the bowl game.
Coach Holgorsen spoke highly of the Hurricanes prior to the game, “They are arguably the most talented team that we have faced all year. It’s a different type of offense than what we see in the Big 12. We have played some pro-style offenses this year. They can score, they have unbelievable talent, they do a great job at protecting the football and managing the game. Defensively, they are as big, strong and fast as we have seen all year so that will be a huge challenge.” While every week is the biggest challenge to date according to the head coach, the Hurricanes will likely be a tough foe in their home state.
The Mountaineers head coach also made it clear he expects a big West Virginia turnout for Wednesday’s game. “Huge. It will be big. Mountaineer fans will travel; this is an area that they want to go to, just being an east coast, West Virginia is east coast, Orlando is east coast, an old Big East rival. It means something, this is the 20th time that Miami and West Virginia have played. A lot of familiarity between the programs, and each other and the fan bases, I would anticipate this being a pretty good one.” As we have previously pointed out, there has been a good amount of smack talk across social media for this game and the hype between the fan bases has continued as the game gets closer.
Finally, Coach Holgorsen pointed out just how important a win would be for his football team. “It gives you a lot of confidence, no question. Last year when we won that game in Arizona it gave us a lot of confidence going into the 2016 season. You want to send the seniors out on top – that is important. You want to use it for some momentum going into the next season as well. We have had success doing that in the past. The key to a bowl game is making sure that you are excited to be there and making sure that you are getting your work done. I will make sure that happens as long as it stays like this, which I’m assuming it will.”
The team will spend the Christmas holiday in Orlando and we can safely assume that players and fans alike will be asking Santa for a chance to sing “Country Roads” on Wednesday in Orlando.