Mountaineers Excited About Bowl Opportunity

West Virginia defensive lineman Sean Martin (91) chases Kansas Jalon Daniels

LAWRENCE, KANSAS – With the proliferation of bowl games in this day and age, maybe earning a postseason berth doesn’t have the same cachet for some that it used to … don’t tell that to college football players, though.

To a man, the Mountaineers were excited to obtain bowl eligibility Saturday by virtue of their 34-28 victory at Kansas. West Virginia’s 6-6 regular season will allow it the opportunity to play once more in 2021 … or maybe 2022.

“I think it’s huge to go to a bowl game. It’s another opportunity to play a game,” said West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege, who transferred to WVU from Bowling Green in the summer of 2019. “Anytime I can play a football game, I’m all about it. I didn’t get to go to a whole lot of bowl games at Bowling Green, so I’m excited for the chance.”

West Virginia did play in the Liberty Bowl last season, defeating Army 24-21. Because of COVID, though, that postseason trip to Memphis was basically just another road game, as the Mountaineers traveled to Tennessee on Dec. 30, played the Black Knights the next day and immediately returned home. Most of the fun and activities that usually are memorable aspects of the bowl for the players in the days leading up to the contest were not part of last year’s Liberty Bowl.

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WVU’s bowl destination this year will probably be the First Responder Bowl in Dallas, the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix, all on Dec. 28, the Cheez-it Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 29 or the Texas Bowl in Houston on Jan. 4.

The Mountaineers should be able to spend several days enjoying themselves this year at their chosen site ahead of the game itself.

“It was very important to become bowl eligible,” stated redshirt freshman running back Tony Mathis. “It should set us up for next season and get us on a roll.”

“We earned this,” added WVU running back Leddie Brown, who has rushed for 1,065 yards so far this season, but he did not commit to playing in the bowl game that otherwise would conclude his Mountaineer career. “Sometimes we were low and sometimes we were high, but in reality, we worked hard throughout the season. We deserve to be in a bowl.”

West Virginia’s football program has plenty of bowl experience in the past four decades. This will be its second postseason berth in Neal Brown’s three seasons coaching the Mountaineers, and it will be WVU’s 17th bowl trip in the past 19 seasons, the 24th in the past 29 seasons and the 30th since 1981.

“It’s pretty much a standard for us to get to a bowl game, and if we had fallen below that standard, that would have been unacceptable,” said senior linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo.

When WVU was 2-4 earlier this season, not many had faith, but Chandler-Semedo said emphatically at that time that the Mountaineers would still reach a bowl.

It turned out he knew exactly what he was talking about.

West Virginia receiver Sam James (13) stretches out for a touchdown catch

“I definitely believed it when I said it,” Chandler-Semedo stated of his bowl prediction. “I know these guys. A lot of us are fourth- and fifth-year guys. I’ve been through it all with them; they are some of my best friends. I knew the work we’d put in, and I knew we were better than going 2-10 or 3-9 or 4-8. We deserved to be in a bowl.

“We’ve got a chance to play one more, which is the important thing,” continued Chandler-Semedo, who is in his last season at WVU but said he will definitely play in the bowl game.

“When I think back to 2-4, I just wanted for us to keep fighting,” said Doege. “We took that next six games like it was a new season. We just kept fighting and kept battling. I’m proud of our players and our coaches in how we kept fighting and became bowl eligible.”

The players don’t have any say in the bowl destination, but Doege admits he has a preference.

“Arizona seems like it’s nice weather,” he smiled.




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