"One of the greatest coaches of the last 50 years gets a game to be saluted. He should have been given a season farewell tour - without strings attached. If this is what 'coach-in-waiting' signings do to icons, they're a lousy idea." - Dave Congrove, CollegeFootballPoll.com
This year's Gator Bowl is an unabashed farewell salute to Bobby Bowden who retires after the game at age 80. West Virginia is where he served as head coach for six seasons before he became FSU’s head coach in 1976 and began turning a struggling program into one of college football's longest dynasties.
Bowden ranks second in all-time wins by a Division I FBS coach with a 388-129-4 career record, trailing only Penn State’s Joe Paterno.
Bowden is 315-97-4 mark in 34 seasons at Florida State after going 42-26 in his six seasons in Morgantown from 1970-1975. Bowden will be coaching in his 28th straight bowl game and his 33rd overall (31 at FSU, 2 at West Virginia).
The Seminoles are making their seventh appearance in the Gator Bowl overall and their fifth appearance under Bowden. Florida State has never lost in this postseason classic and their 5-0-1 record includes victories over the Mountaineers in 1982 and 2005
It's fitting that Bowden's final game should be the Gator Bowl. After all, the first bowl game in which Bowden took part as an assistant coach came on Jan. 2, 1965, when Florida State defeated Oklahoma 36-19 in the Gator Bowl.
Florida State’s offensive line is led by junior guard Rodney Hudson, who received the 2009 Jacobs Blocking Trophy as
the top blocker in the Atlantic Coast Conference (as voted by the league’s head coaches). RB Jermaine Thomas leads the Seminoles in rushing with 711 yards, and WR Bert Reed ranks among the ACC’s leading receivers with 58 catches for 710 yards.
RB Noel Devine leads West Virginia in rushing with 1,297 yards and 12 TD's. QB Jarrett Brown has thrown for 2,129 yards and 11 scores. FS Robert Sands has a team-high five of West Virginia’s 17 interceptions.
The Mountaineers are making their 8th consecutive bowl appearance and 3rd under Bill Stewart who is now 19-7 at WVU. Stewart's first game as head coach was a 48-28 victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl to conclude the 2007 season. He was the interim head coach at the time, but was named Rich Rodriguez' successor the next day. Stewart finished his first full season with a 9-4 record in 2008, and the 2009 regular season 9-3.
This will mark West Virginia’s fourth trip to Jacksonville in seven seasons, including a win over Georgia Tech to conclude the 2006 season.
The Mountaineers are 13-15 all-time in bowl games and are one of just seven teams that care currently riding bowl winning streaks of 4 games or longer. WVU's 4-game streak includes a 31-30 win over North Carolina in last year’s Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Since 2002, West Virginia has not lost more than two conference games in a single season, including consecutive 5-2 seasons in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Over the last 9 seasons, West Virginia is 43-12 in Big East play.
Three of the top eight best-attended Gator Bowls involved West Virginia, including the bowl game record of 82,911 established in 1989 against Clemson.