PHOENIX — Don Nehlen, the godfather of West Virginia football, spoke to the Mountaineers last week. He reminded them of West Virginia's previous trip to the Fiesta Bowl, in the 1988 season.
The Mountaineers played Notre Dame in a national championship game. And the Irish won 34-21 after zipping to a 23-3 lead.
Nehlen talked about distractions to the '07 Mountaineers. How he thinks his 1988 West Virginia team was distracted by the glare of the game. He told these Mountaineers, "Guys, don't let distractions eat at you the rest of your life.”
Easier said than done, with a distraction bigger than Camelback Mountain hanging over West Virginia. Head coach Rich Rodriguez resigned two weeks ago to take the Michigan job, leaving the Mountaineers to scramble under interim head coach Bill Stewart.
But Stewart, speaking at a press conference Wednesday moments after deplaning at Sky Harbor Airport, said his football team will be ready to play.
"It's past. It's gone. It's over,” Stewart said of Rodriguez's stunning departure. "That door's been closed.
"Our football team has a game to play.