The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sports

November 30, 2009

Is WVU Gator bait?

West Virginia safety Robert Sands and kicker Tyler Bitancurt were named the Big East Conference defensive and special teams players of the week Monday.

Sands had seven tackles, three pass breakups and a pivotal fourth-quarter interception as the Mountaineers held Pitt to a season-low 16 points.

Bitancurt had four field goals, including the game-winner as time expired.

Sands and Bitancurt may have also turned the bowl tide in West Virginia’s favor.

Now, instead of talk of the Papajohn’s.com Bowl, the Mountaineers are potentially in line for a berth in the Gator Bowl.

But it will take some work.

West Virginia has to beat Rutgers Saturday when the two teams meet at noon at Rutgers. The game will be televised on ESPN.

And Cincinnati will have to beat Pittsburgh in what is the de facto Big East championship game.

That way, WVU would finish second in the Big East, making it a perfect mark for the Gator.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Notre Dame lost to Stanford Saturday night.

Gator Bowl executive director Rick Catlett was quoted in the Jacksonville Times-Union a couple weeks ago that a 7-5 Notre Dame team was still a “viable option” for the bowl.

Notre Dame finished 6-6 and coach Charlie Weis was fired Monday.

Typically, coach Bill Stewart eschewed any talk of bowl games.

“I’m going to tell the team it’s round seven of the Big East,” Stewart said. “I can’t stop what people put out there. As soon as we got off the field on Friday night, I started hearing things about the Gator Bowl and the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

“It’s the same thing I said last season — let us get through game 12 before we worry about game 13. It would be so much easier on keeping these young men focused. I’m going to have to rely on our seniors to keep this bunch focused. We are playing Rutgers before we play in any bowl.”

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