Mountaineers Turn Hotel Ballroom to Gridiron - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Mountaineers Turn Hotel Ballroom to Gridiron

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NEW YORK -

Tavon Austin has been known for dancing around defenders in his time in a West Virginia uniform.

His footwork has been a point of envy for opposing players and coaches and a source of pride for those siding with the Mountaineers.

On Wednesday, he took that dance technique to an actual ballroom.

With snow and rain heading for New York, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen moved the team's first practice in the city to just a few floors below where they slept the night before – in the New York Hilton.

Junior receiver Stedman Bailey describes the room as being about 25 yards wide and 15 yards long, and while that even sounds small by hotel ballroom standards, it's nothing similar to what the team would have seen if it had made it to practice at Fordham University's field.

"It was like a ballroom setting with high ceilings, so we were able to throw the ball around and get some timing routes in," quarterback Geno Smith said. "It was neat, actually. It was kind of like being in our indoor facility at West Virginia, but a lot smaller."

Truly, as much as coaches may complain about the fact that WVU's indoor facility is only 80 yards long with ceilings that don't allow for punts and kickoffs, this is a whole different story right here.

Kansas State was similarly forced inside two years ago before subsequently losing to Syracuse in that year's Pinstripe Bowl game, but you would never hear anyone from that Wildcats roster actually point a finger of blame at those missed hours of practice.

WVU is already putting aside any notion that the team is at a disadvantage before anyone would put those words in the Mountaineers' mouths.

"To me, not going outside today has absolutely nothing to do with winning or losing a football game," says newly appointed defensive coordinator Keith Patterson.

"A long time ago, I used to be a track coach and we did all of our preparation 10 days prior to the state track meet," Patterson said. "The week of the state track meet, we did absolutely nothing, except we'd go out and sweat. The whole deal was, it's all about trying to peak at the right time."

Patterson believes the players put forth the sort of effort in the weeks since their win over Kansas that the physical part of practice was behind them. What still is left to perfect is more of the mental preparation, which is what a hotel ballroom walk-through could afford them.

"It's like we always talk about – if you can't tackle now, you'll never learn how to tackle. If you can't run, you're not going to know how to run," senior receiver Tavon Austin said. "It's definitely not a big deal, we just want to see Saturday."

The team had a chance to extend its meetings to about an hour and 45 minutes, watching film from the previous week's last practice before then stepping on the field – or wood flooring or carpeting, whichever – and putting it to use.

The limited space did force the Mountaineer offense to focus on different aspects of its attack.

"We couldn't really throw the ball downfield or anything like that," Bailey admits. "Short passes and basically just trying to do all we can in a limited amount of space. It was more of a day of everybody knowing where they were supposed to be and we got some good work done watching film, too, so that was pretty good."

The talk of mental work is fine, but it wasn't all getting their brains right and their game plan memorized. As Smith points out, there was plenty of physical activity on Wednesday, even if it wasn't all on Fordham's turf.

"Mike Joseph, he really got after us because we couldn't get on the field, so he tried his best to break us," Smith said of the WVU strength coach. "I think we had a few guys puking, I'm not sure, but it was tough today."

The Mountaineers were in shorts and shoes and helmets, limited contact. No one was tackled to the floor in the Hilton ballrooms.

"I'm pretty sure Coach Patterson would've liked that," Smith said, "but we didn't do it."

Instead, they practiced their dance for one final performance this season. This one will not be played indoors.

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