Jayhawks Practice In Rain To Get Ready For Orange Bowl

Coaches did their best to turn the showers to their advantage

Jan. 1, 2008

NORTH MIAMI, Fla. (AP) - The first break in the Orange Bowl went Virginia Tech's way.

A cold rain - unusual this time of year in South Florida - pelted Kansas in the final half-hour of practice late Tuesday afternoon. It was sunny in the morning when the favored Hokies (11-2) went through their workout in preparation for the Thursday night kickoff.

So coaches did their best to turn the showers to their advantage.

"We used wet balls," said wide receiver Dexton Fields, who has led the Jayhawks (11-1) in receptions each of the past two years. "Even before it started raining, they got out the wet balls so we could get used to it. So that's all that really matters. If the ball is wet, we should be good because we're used to it."

Coach Mark Mangino said the showers were no more a distraction than anything else has been since the team arrived Thursday.

"I think they've handled everything pretty well," Mangino said. "They seem focused. The meetings and everything are good. The practice field hasn't been different. The tempo has been good, no different than when we're at home. I want them to have fun, but they also know when it's time to work.

"It's a big game. Our kids are smart. We're not going to try to fool them and tell them this is just another game. But it's still football. The field's 100 yards. They have 11. We have 11. It's just that a few more people will be paying attention to it."

Experience is one reason the ACC champion Hokies are favored by three points over a Kansas team whose season was spoiled only by a loss to Missouri in the showdown for the Big 12 North title. It's the 15th straight bowl game for Virginia Tech, but Kansas hasn't been to a major bowl in 39 years and has never made postseason trips two years in a row.

Again, Mangino insists he's not worried.

"The only thing we're concerned about is what we see on videotape, their scheme, their personnel," he said. "You just can't go by who's played in more big games over the years because time and time again, those teams don't always win. It seems as though they have an advantage. People will tell you that. But I don't see that. Games in the past don't affect what happens Thursday as much as one would think."