MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Pre-game meals for West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez have come a long way since his days coaching at NAIA Salem College back in the late 1980s. Rodriguez, in a playful mood while adressing the media Monday morning, recalled once going on a 15-hour bus trip to play Central Connecticut State and his Salem players having to improvise to heat up some microwavable biscuits for breakfast.
“We stopped at some rest area in New York at about 6 in the morning and the trainer told the team, ‘Well, we’ve got some biscuits for breakfast,’” Rodriguez said. “We broke the biscuits out and they were frozen and they weren’t too good.
“There was a line of about 60 players with those microwavable biscuits and they were holding them out in front of the exhaust of the bus trying to warm them up. A lot of guys got sick and I wonder why?
“We got beat and I blame it on those biscuits,” he laughed.
Today, Rodriguez doesn’t have to hand out microwavable biscuits for his team to eat on the bus. The night before they have a nice spread of food during the team dinner that includes some of Rodriguez’ personal favorites: Chicken Cordon Bleu, pasta, a little beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, New England clam chowder, and a chocolate sundae.
“We don’t change that meal,” Rodriguez said. “After that they’ll want to go to sleep the night before,” Rodriguez said.
“I know I load up.”
In some instances, particularly on chartered airplane trips, the coaching staff pays close attention to what their players are eating – particularly the offensive linemen.
“We actually have to monitor what some of our guys eat because Delta (Airlines) gives us enough food to feed four teams. The sandwiches … and they have big old ice-cream bars about that big,” said Rodriguez, moving his two index fingers about 10 inches apart. “Some of our linemen can’t wait to go on the road.
“We come back from a road trip and some of our backup offensive linemen have gained six or seven pounds. I thought, wow. The last thing you want to do is have a backup lineman gaining seven pounds on a road trip,” Rodriguez chuckled.
Because the Mountaineers are playing a midweek night game against Connecticut this Wednesday, their normal schedule has been altered a little bit.
Rodriguez explains: “We’ll leave after Tuesday’s practice (for Lakeview) and they’ll miss class all day Wednesday. Part of the reason is that campus is a little bit crazy on a game day because of traffic and people coming in and out. The last thing we want to do with our players is have them running around.”
Unlike Saturdays when there are plenty of college football games for the players to watch in their rooms, the players will have very little of interest to watch on TV Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t think we’ll be sitting around watching soap operas -- I won’t be,” Rodriguez said.
Someone mentioned to Rodriguez that his players could take in a little Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil Wednesday afternoon. The coach wasn’t too excited about that.
“Dr. Phil and Oprah … I’d hate for my guys to watch that stuff. Then I’d have all kinds of questions from you guys next week,” he laughed.
Rodriguez says his team will stick to its usual night-game schedule of getting up in time for a 9:30 am breakfast, and then having offensive and defensive walkthroughs immediately afterward.
“We talk about plays and watch a little film,” Rodriguez said.
Then the team is excused to go back to their hotel rooms to watch games. This Wednesday, however, they will be permitted to watch a movie before having their pre-game meal.
“This time it will be a different meal; we won’t feed the team ice-cream sundaes,” Rodriguez said.
Following pre-game dinner, the team will either have another meeting with their position coaches or return to their rooms for about an hour until boarding their busses for the 20-minute ride to the stadium.
“We like to arrive at the stadium two hours before the game,” Rodriguez said. “But it’s a long day. With a 7:30 start you’re over there until 5 o’clock before you leave.”
“Ernest won’t be 100 percent and he isn’t ready to take 50 snaps but he’ll play,” Rodriguez said, adding the Pat White will start Wednesday’s game. “If Adam is ready to go then he’ll play, too.”
“He’s practicing with more confidence,” Rodriguez said.
The coach is still working on a few minor mechanical things with White’s throwing motion, mainly reminding him to keep his elbow higher.
“He has a tendency to drop his elbow a little bit,” Rodriguez said. “That’s not a problem if your 6-5 but when you’re 6-1, you can get some passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.”