Hokies practice in Phoenix for first time in preparation for Insight Bowl
Bowl Insights
December 22, 2003

After making the 4.5-hour cross country flight to Phoenix on Sunday, the Virginia Tech Hokies participated in their first practice in the Valley of the Sun on Monday, hitting the field at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale in preparation for the Insight Bowl against Cal on Dec. 26th.

The Hokies practiced in full pads for nearly two hours, going through their normal "Tuesday" practice. Tech's players and coaches appeared reinvigorated practicing in the 70-degree sunny climate - a sharp contrast to the 30-degree chill of southwest Virginia.

"We're really glad to be here and be playing in this bowl," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said, addressing the media for the first time since arriving in Phoenix. "I've known John Junker [bowl executive] and his staff for years and they do things first class.

"And it's nice to have a change of scenery. We practiced three days in Blacksburg and had to practice indoors all three days. So a change of scenery and climate hopefully will do this team some good. We've got a good team here, but we didn't play well down the stretch and maybe this is what we need. It won't be easy, though."

All of the California contingent arrived Sunday as well, and they, too, began practice on Monday, working out at another local high school. The Bears, playing in a bowl for the first time since 1996, have won four of the past five games.

"They beat Southern Cal and we beat Miami, so it should be a great match-up," Beamer said. "I've read several things that have said this bowl game is one of the best ones to watch and I wouldn't disagree. I think it's a great match-up."

A plug for the bowl system: Beamer has long been known as a "bowl" guy instead of a "playoff" guy and he managed to get a plug in for the bowl system when asked about one of his players commenting on getting to see a desert for the first time.

"To me, that's what is right about the bowl system," Beamer said. "You get to visit a new place for a week and you get to meet new people. You get to see things you might not get to see otherwise. That's why we need to keep the bowl system intact."

Kind words for Tedford: Beamer knows nearly everyone in the Division I-A coaching circles, but he has never met California head coach Jeff Tedford, who served as an assistant at Oregon before taking the Cal job two years ago. Tedford led the Bears to a winning season last year - his first - after they went 1-10 the previous year. Cal didn't go to a bowl, though, because it was on probation.

This year, Tedford guided a young team - team that saw quarterback Kyle Boller drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft last April - to a bowl game for the first time in seven years.

"I don't know Jeff, but I really respect the program he's put together," Beamer said. "You can see it on film when a team is well-coached and Cal is well-coached. He's making a name for himself. He's been there two years and he's had two fantastic seasons. If he's not well-known now, he's going to be."

Differences between Cal and Tech: Different programs and coaches run things different ways during a bowl week, and while there is not a right or wrong way, Tech and Cal stand as direct contrasts in preparing for the Insight Bowl.

For example, Tedford has not imposed a curfew on the Bears until the night before the game. Beamer imposed at 1:30 a.m. curfew the Hokies' first two nights, with a 1 a.m. curfew set for Tuesday night and 11 p.m. curfews on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Also, Tedford let his players drive to Phoenix if they wanted to even though the drive was 8-10 hours from Berkeley (750 miles), while Beamer obviously couldn't let his team drive across the country. As allowed by NCAA rules, players get reimbursed for mileage if they drive to the bowl game - an incentive for the players to drive to the game.

And the Bears conducted media interviews both before and after practice. The Hokies, on the other hand, conducted interviews before practice only and close the practice to the media after the third period of practice.

Odds and ends: The Hokies got a scare in practice when receiver Chris Clifton was shoved out of bounds while trying to make a catch and landed on the asphalt track that circles the field. He injured his hand, but it looked much worse. Clifton should be fine for the bowl ... Garnell Wilds will not be playing in the bowl game. The senior cornerback injured his knee earlier in the season and hoped to get back for the bowl, but Tech's sports medicine staff will not clear him ... Nick Marshman, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound offensive lineman from Turner Ashby High near Harrisonburg, Va., made the trip to Phoenix with the Hokies. Marshman signed with Tech this past February, but elected to enroll in January of 2004.