WVU settles for Champ Sports Bowl
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- It won't be Miami, but West Virginia will be headed to Florida for its bowl game this year.
The No. 22-ranked Mountaineers will face North Carolina State in the Champ Sports Bowl at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 28, the Florida Citrus Sports Selection Committee announced Sunday night.
"We're absolutely thrilled and excited to be a participant," WVU coach Bill Stewart said. "We're going to be America's game on Dec. 28. What more could you ask for?"
WVU won a share of the Big East title Saturday with a 35-14 win over Rutgers, but UConn defeated South Florida that same day to earn the conference's automatic BCS spot.
The payout for the Champ Sports Bowl is $2.1 million, nearly $16 million less than the Orange Bowl in Miami, where WVU likely would have ended up if UConn had lost Saturday.
"I see no disappointment," Stewart said. "I've already received some calls from my players; they're excited. We're very proud."
The Champs Sports Bowl chose 9-3 West Virginia over 7-5 Notre Dame.
"We have a long relationship with Notre Dame ... but we felt like a ranked top-25 team like West Virginia deserved to be here," Florida Citrus Sports president Michel Champagne said. "For the best interest of college football, they earned the trip and deserve to be here."
N.C. State (8-4) is headed to a bowl for the second time in coach Tom O'Brien's four-year tenure. It's the school's third bowl bid since former quarterback Philip Rivers left for the NFL in 2003.
The Wolfpack defeated Cincinnati, 30-19, and lost to Maryland, 38-31. WVU defeated both of those teams this season.
"They have a tremendous job under Tom," Stewart said. "It looks like a really good football game, a heck of a matchup."
N.C. State is led by junior quarterback Russell Wilson, who leads the ACC's best passing offense. Wilson, who also is a star baseball player, has passed for 3,288 yards and 26 touchdowns and also leads the team in rushing TDs with nine.
"I know he's a whale of a player, and he's a great competitor. I've got to watch him on film against Cincinnati, and I just know what he can do and the record he has," Stewart said. "His stats are phenomenal. He's very much a top-flight, efficient passer."
N.C. State also has the 39th-best scoring defense. It ranks fourth in sacks and tackles for loss behind athletic linebacker Nate Irving, who has 20 1⁄2 tackles for loss and six sacks this year.
"We're coming to Orlando looking to have a good time, but looking to win a football game," O'Brien said.
WVU leads the all-time series with N.C. State, 5-4.
The last time the two teams played was in 1979. They have played each other in bowl games twice before -- in 1972 and '75, both times in the Peach Bowl.
The Mountaineers have been bowl eligible for 10 straight seasons.
WVU is 1-8 all-time in bowl games in Florida. Last year, The Mountaineers lost, 33-21, in the Gator Bowl against Florida State.
With a win, Stewart will earn his first 10-win season at WVU. His teams have won nine games the previous two seasons.Additional Information:
Champ Sports Bowl
Who: West Virginia vs. N.C. State
When: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 28, Citrus Bowl Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
TV/radio: ESPN/WVAQ-FM (101.9)/Mountaineer Sports Network
Records: West Virginia 9-3, N.C. State 8-4
Payout: $2.1 million
Series: West Virginia leads, 5-4
Scouting N.C. State: The Wolfpack earned their most wins since 2003 and just one shy of the second-best record in school history. ... N.C. State has the nation's 19th-best passing offense (281.7 yards per game) and the 12th-best run defense (113.0 yards per game). ... QB Russell Wilson ranked 11th nationally and tops in the ACC with an average of 306.9 yards of offense per game.
Ticket information: Call the Mountaineer Ticket Office at 1-800-WVU-GAME or visit WVUGAME.com