This should be a scenario to which West Virginia football fans can relate -especially after the Bowden (wait, I mean Toyota Gator) Bowl last January.
Once again we find the old gold and blue-with its multitude of money-spending fans-traveling to the Sunshine State of Florida to take on a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Unlike the Mountaineers' last postseason contest, that ended with a 33-21 upset loss at the hands of the Florida State Seminoles and their veteran head coach Bobby Bowden (who was coaching in his final game at the helm of the program), it will be WVU and its players that will be saying good-bye to at least a pair of coaches.
Slated to be on the sidelines (or in the pressbox) for the final time with the Mountaineers will be offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson. Adding still more drama to the late-December bowl contest is the added rumor that head coach Bill Stewart could add his name to that list.
First-year Director of Athletics Oliver Luck has made it perfectly clear that he wasn't impressed with the job Mullen and Johnson had done during WVU's 9-3 regular season. He also has gone on record saying that, while he will support one more year at the helm for Stewart,he will replace the school's 32nd head coach with newly-hired offensive coordinator/head coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen.
Not exactly the kind of stuff Stewart and his staff need to be dealing with while trying to prepare for a North Carolina State Wolfpack squad that is better than its 8-4 mark.
Yes, head coach Tom O'Brien's squad lost to a Maryland (38-31) team that WVU manhandled 31-17 back on Sept. 18. Plus, the Wolfpack's 33-27 overtime loss to Conference USA member East Carolina has got to have Mountaineer fans believing the trip back from Orlando will be a happy one.
However, a quick perusal of NC State's other two losses-a 41-30 decision to Virginia Tech and a 14-13 setback to Clemson (both were No. 23 at the time)-should provide more than enough proof that this is a team just as dangerous as Bowden's final FSU squad.
Need more convincing?
Not only does the Wolfpack possess a defense that may not sport the numbers posted by WVU this fall, but has the ability to cause a lot of problems for the Mountaineers. Especially if the offensive front continues its up-and-down performances and the team continues to beat itself with turnovers. Yes, the same scenario the cost the old gold and blue victories at LSU and Connecticut as well as at Mountaineer Field against Syracuse.
The Wolfpack also can score thanks to junior quarterback Russell Wilson, who has completed 280-of-482 attempts for 3,288 yards and 26 touchdowns with only 14 interceptions.
Will WVU win its third bowl game under the leadership of Stewart or will the 2010 Champ Sports Bowl forever be known as the "Stewart Bowl?"
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org