When head coach Rich Rodriguez was heavily recruited by Alabama as its next head coach, the West Virginia Mountaineers proved they could keep the family fed and ponied-up a heaping helping of bubbling crude to keep their football coaching hero in Morgantown.
West Virginia hopes to end the year with 11 wins for the second straight season and welcomes back starting quarterback Pat White to help them accomplish that feat. White sat out the season finale win over Rutgers with an ankle injury but has been named the starter for the Gator Bowl.
Along with running back Steve Slaton, the dynamic duo accounted for 4,331 of West Virginia's 5,556 total yards - a whopping 78 percent.
Both players posted gaudy numbers. White completed 109-of-164 passes for 1,524 yards, 11 TD's and 7 INT's while adding 1,074 yards and 17 TD's on the ground. Slaton rushed for 1,733 yards and 16 touchdowns, and added 340 yards receiving for 2 more TD's on 25 receptions. Both players averaged over 7 yards per carry.
They can play run defense, too, ranking 9th nationally in that department. But the secondary ranked near the bottom of all 1-A teams as it allowed 2,837 yards.
Georgia Tech's defense is almost a mirror image of WVU's. Against the run, the Yellow Jackets rank 16th nationally, but they clock in at just a few spots above West Virginia in pass defense with 2,610 yards allowed. That could get worse with cornerback Kenny Scott ruled academically ineligible for the bowl game. Scott had 50 tackles, 2 interceptions and 10 passes broken-up during the regular season.
However, the biggest question mark for the Ramblin' Wreck is the offense. Reggie Ball, who has seemingly been behind center since the dawning of the age of Aquarius, is also academically ineligible for the game. His performance as a four-year starter alternated constantly between hero and goat. But the new starter, Taylor Bennett, has thrown just 29 passes all season.
Georgia Tech limps into this game having lost a heartbreaker to state rival Georgia, and the ACC Championship to Wake Forest. In those two games, the Jackets were an offensive wreck that produced a total of 18 points and just one touchdown.
West Virginia can wonder what might have been, too. The Mountaineers were the pick of the Big East media to win the conference, but the Congrove Computer Rankings projected Louisville as champs with the Mountaineers in second. A loss at Louisville made West Virginia's conference title run a longshot, and an upset home loss to South Florida flushed that dream down the drain. A triple-overtime
win over Rutgers in the season finale kept the Mountaineers from sliding farther down the bowl ladder.
West Virginia is just 2-11 in its last thirteen bowl games. Last year's Sugar Bowl victory was the Mountaineer's first bowl victory under Rodriguez (1-3).