In terms of ticket sales, West Virginia fans could be outnumbered by 4-to-1 or more at the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl New Years Day in Jacksonville, Fla.
In terms of enthusiasm, it may be a different story, according to Mountaineers’ coach Bill Stewart.
“There will be about 70,000 of those people clad in red and gold versus about 15,000 of our fans, but I like those odds. I’ll take those odds,” Stewart said Monday (Dec. 21).
“When you’ve got 15,000 West Virginians in there they are going to make some noise.”
Kickoff for the 65th annual Gator Bowl is at 1 p.m. in the 83,474-seat Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.
Although oddsmakers quickly installed 9-3 WVU as the favorite to beat the 6-6 Seminoles, Stewart considers the Mountaineers underdogs. He said the emotion surrounding FSU coach Bobby Bowden’s final game gives the Seminoles an advantage.
Bowden will conclude 34 years of coaching with his 28th consecutive bowl appearance. WVU head coach from 1970-75, Bowden’s first bowl appearance was a Gator Bowl victory over the Mountaineers in 1982.
Stewart compared Bowden’s exit to WVU’s appearance in the 2000 Music City Bowl, the final game of Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen’s career. The Mountaineers built a big early lead and held on to beat Mississippi 49-38 to send Nehlen out a winner.
“I gave a little bit extra for coach Nehlen in that game, we all did,” Stewart said. “The coaches, staff and players are all going to do that for coach Bowden. They’re going to give us their best shot without a doubt for coach Bowden.”
Bowden is 2-0 all-time against his former school with his last victory coming in the 2005 Gator Bowl. WVU has been to a bowl every year since 2002 and has won the past four, including a 31-30 win over North Carolina in the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl. It’s the team’s third bowl appearance in three years under Stewart.
This year’s game has added significance for Stewart, who played his freshman year at WVU under Bowden before transferring to Fairmont State.
“You’re talking about one of the greatest coaches of all time going out,” he said. “When I came to WVU in 1970 from New Martinsville, I never would have dreamed this day would come about. I just hope I can keep my emotions in check that day,” Stewart said.
With all the hype surrounding the game, some WVU players wonder if the Mountaineers are being forgotten by the national media.
“Everyone’s talking about Bobby Bowden and Florida State but around here it’s all about us. It’s all about WVU,” quarterback Jarrett Brown said.
The Mountaineers will practice until Wednesday morning, take a few days off for the Christmas holiday and reconvene in Jacksonville on Saturday, Dec. 27.
Fans looking for the latest bowl game and team information can check
The site features a Twitter feed, a place to leave a message for the team, videos, access to WVU’s Facebook page, bowl polls, Mountaineer Sports Network programming, the WVU Marching Band and a one-stop source for the latest bowl information.
Also, visitors to WVU BowlSpace can leave messages of support for coach Stewart and the team as it prepares for the Seminoles. They can check out what student-athletes have to say about life off the playing field, learn about oneWVU, WVU’s campus diversity project and share alumni stories.
There is also a link to WVU’s Mobile Web (m.wvu.edu).
WVU BowlSpace was developed by University Relations in cooperation with the Department of Athletics and the Alumni Association.
For a listing of fan activities check: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2009/12/15/gator-bowl-bound-mountaineers-can-take-advantage-of-fan-activities
By Dan Shrensky
WVU News & Information Services
Contact: News and Information Services