MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University's defensive backs figure they will be tested by the passing skills of North Carolina State's Russell Wilson, and it's a test they will have to take without one of their normal starters.
Cornerback Brandon Hogan is hampered by a knee injury he suffered in the final game of the season, and he was held out of last Saturday's practice. Coach Bill Stewart is unsure if Hogan will be able to play in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 28.
"It's a wait and see thing," Stewart said. "We hope Brandon can go, and if anyone can do it, Brandon can do it."
Stewart said if Hogan is unable to play in the game, Patrick Miller, Brantwon Bowser and Broderick Jenkins will split the playing time.
"It's not like they have to be Superman," the coach said. "They just have to play their position."
The Mountaineers, 9-3 overall, will step up their preparations for the 8-4 Wolfpack on Saturday after the players finish their semester final examinations. The team will practice at its indoor facility next week, and they will begin their practices in Florida on Christmas Day.
"We have a real tough opponent in NC State," Stewart said. "They have beaten a fine Florida State team, and they put points on a fine Georgia Tech team."
Though the weather outside may indicate differently, Stewart likened the bowl preparations to having an additional spring practice. He said that is why teams who consistently play in post-season games have consistently strong teams.
"You get better honing your skills," he said. "You get 15 practices in the spring, counting the (Gold-Blue) game. We're going to get 10 good practices with the 10th being the bowl."
WVU is 2-1 in bowl games under Stewart, and Stewart can recall a time when the team did not fare as well in the post-season.
"It's called management of people, management of attitude, and it's a mental discipline that young people have to be told what the plan is, how to buy into the plan and how to execute the plan," he said. The crucial part is don't grind them. I've been of staffs that did that, and the bowls didn't turn out very well. We practice very fast, very physical, and we let them have some fun once we get to a bowl site after we do the work."