NEW YORK – You can add staff meteorologist to West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen’s job responsibilities for this week.
Because of the winter storm that brought high winds, freezing rain and ice into the New York metropolitan area, the Mountaineers were forced to practice in the team hotel ballroom this afternoon in preparation for Saturday’s Pinstripe Bowl meeting against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium.
“I’m becoming a very good weatherman,” Holgorsen joked Wednesday evening. “I study that thing pretty hard and I’ve been dead on here the last few times.”
Holgorsen said practicing indoors was not ideal, but the Mountaineers were able to get some things accomplished, nevertheless.
“This is my 13th straight bowl game and all 13 of them have been a different approach,” he explained. “When it’s a different city, when it’s a different time, a different opponent, a different facility, everything is different. You can go back to the same bowl game but because of timing it can be a different situation.
“We knew we had to get a lot of our work done (beforehand in Morgantown). We got a lot of it on tape, met a bunch and tried and refresh these guys,” Holgorsen said. “We’re going to have to rely on a bunch of older guys like Geno (Smith) and Tavon (Austin) and some guys that have played a lot of ball to try and get the job done.”
Holgorsen confirmed that senior center Joe Madsen
did not make the trip to New York and will not participate in Saturday’s game. The coach also didn’t reveal what his plans are in light of Madsen’s absence.
“It’s disappointing that he didn’t take care of business,” Holgorsen said. “The expectation for our guys is to go to class, get good grades and leave West Virginia with a good, quality education and a degree. Joey fell short of that and we’re disappointed that he did.”
Holgorsen did say that more of the responsibility for protections on Saturday will fall on Smith’s shoulders. The first 18 blitzes Syracuse showed during last year’s game against the Mountaineers were all different, according to Holgorsen, so that will obviously test the five offensive linemen that will be out on the field.
“That makes it challenge for us from a coach’s standpoint and it’s going to be challenging for us up front to be able to handle that,” Holgorsen said. “We’re probably going to rely on Geno to see some things more than we have in the past. Geno is experienced and he understands the game better than anyone I’ve ever been around to the point where he can point out a lot of the blitzes and get us targeted.”
Overall, Holgorsen is very impressed with the Orange on both sides of the football.
“They are a well-coached defense that plays hard; they play with tremendous effort and the scheme is tricky. They are going to blitz us,” he said. “And they’ve got great offense and that’s been talked about a lot. They are more similar to us than what I remembered from a year ago. They’ve got a good, quality quarterback that gets his guys playing hard; veteran offensive line, quality backs and good receivers so they are pretty similar to what we are.”
The fact that the West Virginia players are still pretty familiar with a longtime eastern rival will also help.
“It makes my job a little easier because there is a lot of familiarity with them,” Holgorsen said. “We can pull up the tape from last year and it makes a little bit more sense to them than some of the new Big 12 opponents that we faced for nine straight games.”
Holgorsen said he expects the team to be outside practicing on Thursday and Friday ahead of Saturday’s game.
“We are more than happy to get outside,” he said. “This should clear out tomorrow and the next two days we should get some work done.”