MORGANTOWN — Coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday he doesn’t think it will be difficult to motivate his team for Saturday night’s regular-season finale at South Florida.

With the Big East championship and BCS bowl berth already locked up, some folks might look at this as a meaningless game.

“I don’t think it will be a problem at all (getting the team pumped up,” Rodriguez said Monday on the Big East’s media teleconference.

“We talked at the beginning of the year about how each game counts as one and, in Division I-A football, the games mean so much.

“While we’ve won the championship already, we still feel like we have something to prove. I think that’s been part of the reason for our success this year.”

He believes the 12th-ranked Mountaineers have played all season like they felt they had to prove something in winning nine of 10 games.

Rodriguez doesn’t think the situation is any different going down to Tampa. That game, originally scheduled for Oct. 22, was postponed because of a threatening hurricane.

“I think the players feel they still have something to prove — that clearly this year in the Big East, the Mountaineers were the team to beat,” the coach stated.

The conference’s head coaches in preseason voted Louisville as the favorite, with West Virginia no higher than third.

While admitting that the Mountaineers were rooting for Connecticut to knock off USF last Saturday (15-9), Rodriguez begs to differ with those who are saying the Bulls handed the league title to WVU.

“I’ve told our guys nobody handed us the other games we won in the Big East,” he emphasized. “We had to go out and prove that.

“And I think our guys take (such talk) to heart. Nobody gave us the Big East championship. We had to go out and win it on the field.”

He cites this as another reason he believes his players feel like they still have something to prove by adding USF to their list of victims.

WVU is 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the league. South Florida is 6-4 and 4-2.

Ironically, the Mountaineers are undefeated on the road this season, while the Bulls have yet to lose at home.

West Virginia is expected to play in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 at Atlanta against the Southeastern Conference champion, probably nationally third-ranked LSU.

“Our fans travel very well,” Rodriguez noted. “Usually the bigger bowl, the better we travel.

“It would be a shock if we don’t sell every ticket we have and then some. Our folks will be excited no matter where the bowl is.”

Rodriguez said the reason his team has been so successful is “our guys, believing in each other, stuck together and were able to reach their goal.

“Our guys also, I think, are still very focused on USF. We talked about bowls Sunday, and I told them not to talk about bowls again until after Saturday because our focus needs to be on South Florida.

“After that game, we can talk about bowl situations. I’m proud of our guys. We have a lot of respect for USF’s program and for the athletes they have.”


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