Welcome home cookin'
West Virginia receiver Ivan McCartney and some of his teammates found a way home for the holidays.
McCartney and 18 of those Florida native teammates, to be exact.
The news that WVU would play in the Orange Bowl Wednesday night exacted quite a response from the 6-foot-3 sophomore from Miramar, Fla.
"I jumped for joy," McCartney said.
This season, he jumped for pass after pass thrown by Geno Smith, another Miramar product. After a 2010 freshman season with one carry for 2 yards and one catch for 4, McCartney showed serious exponential growth with 47 receptions for 572 yards and three touchdowns.
He's behind Tavon Austin (89, 1,063 and four) and fellow Miramar grad Stedman Bailey (67, 1,197 and 11) on the Mountaineer season reception list, but has almost twice as many catches as the team's No. 4 receiver, Devon Brown (24).
On Friday, McCartney and the rest of the Mountaineers' Florida contingent took to their home soil via the Barry University soccer fields for practice.
"This is a dream come true," McCartney said beforehand. "A lot of athletes don't get the chance to go home and play after leaving. I can't believe this. Can't even describe it."
McCartney arrived in South Florida on Christmas Eve and has been there ever since. His home, he said, is a "5-minute walk" to Sun Life Stadium, where the Orange Bowl will be played.
"I had about 70 calls," McCartney said upon learning of the BCS bowl. "It's been crazy. I'll have 20 to 30 friends and family at the game."
"No expectations," he said. "Just going out and playing."
Mostly playing the Z receiver position, known for physical play, McCartney will see a Clemson secondary ranked No. 37 nationally in pass defense, allowing an average of 202.9 yards. The Tigers are No. 56 in pass efficiency with a 127.4 rating. (Alabama leads the nation in the category at 83.97.)
"They show a lot of man coverage," McCartney said. "The cornerbacks look big, but you can't tell until you get on the field."
Clemson is expected to start Coty Sensabaugh and Bashaud Breeland, both listed at 6-foot and 185 pounds, at the cornerback positions.
McCartney said the coaches broke down film "a lot" before making the trip and he sees "nothing but opportunities" in the game.
"Everything looks good," said the receiver. "We want to get this game won for the seniors."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.