The WVU football program is no stranger to bowl trips — the Mountaineers have made such a trip in 18 of the last 20 seasons, while Neal Brown as a head coach is 3-0 in his postseason appearances as a head coach.
Brown has made sure to emphasize WVU’s voyage to Phoenix for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl as a reward for a strong regular season finish. His staff has shortened practices, bumped up the team’s meal quality and even found new ways to entertain the players.
That’s just the beginning for the Mountaineers. Bowl season is generally filled with gifts and events for participants, which just adds to that reward — and while the team made (and won) the Liberty Bowl in 2020, this is the first full bowl experience for many of WVU’s players.
“It is my first time, I never went to one at Bowling Green,” said quarterback Jarret Doege. “It’s been fun, we’ve got a couple bowl gifts. We did that last year, I think the bowl gifts this year are a lot better so far, then when we get to the site, we’ll be there for a couple more days than we were last year. I’m excited to experience that.”
The first gift they received was a TheraGun, a massage tool that helps with recovery. This was a welcome gift for the players, who after 12 games of football, are battling soreness and other minor injuries.
“I love it, I was excited to get it,” said defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor. “I looked online and it was pretty expensive online — I was going to ask my mother or I was going to get it for myself for Christmas because I really wanted one because during workouts my body be getting sore and stuff, and I would like to have one at home.”
Mesidor said the team has already gotten a whole lot of other swag, like shirts, shorts and a brand-new pair of shoes.
Minnesota, WVU’s opponent, beat the Mountaineers to Phoenix touching down on Thursday afternoon. The Mountaineers are set to travel on Christmas Day, giving the team two full days before they kick off against the Golden Gophers.
As both teams are heading to the desert from a pair of cold-weather areas, some players are really excited to ditch the coats for a few days. Some players, like Mesidor, will be reaching new territory as he sets foot in Arizona for the first time — among other firsts, like an NBA game.
“I only know one of the activities, and I’m looking forward to it the most…apparently, we’re going to a Phoenix Suns game,” Mesidor said. “My best friend back home, his favorite player is Devin Booker, and I’ll be able to laugh at him and tell him that I’ve seen him in real life and he hasn’t.”
West Virginia and Minnesota kick off on Dec. 28 at 10:15 p.m. ET. The Guaranteed Rate Bowl will be shown on ESPN.