CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -The hurt is still there for No. 11 West Virginia.
The Mountaineers were so close to locking up a spot in the national championship game. Fans had already bought travel packages to New Orleans. All West Virginia had to do was beat Pittsburgh on Dec. 1 and the trip would have become a reality.
The 13-9 loss to the Panthers, who were 28-point underdogs, shocked the program. But there was more to come.
A bigger surprise came Dec. 16 when coach Rich Rodriguez told his players that he was taking the job at Michigan.
The pain still lingers as the Mountaineers (10-2) head to Arizona on Wednesday without Rodriguez to continue preparations for the Fiesta Bowl against No. 3 Oklahoma (11-2).
``We're still playing a BCS bowl and I think that's pretty much our team's mood,'' said offensive lineman Ryan Stanchek. ``You set out at the beginning of the year to win the Big East and play in a BCS bowl. And that's where we're at. So I think we just need to move on.''
If the Mountaineers are looking for motivation, they can become one of three teams to win 11 games in each of the past three seasons. The others are LSU and Southern Cal. It is also the Mountaineers' second trip to a BCS game in three years.
WVU also can earn a third straight top 10 finish.
``We don't expect anybody to feel sorry for us. That's just the nature of this game,'' West Virginia safety Ryan Mundy said. ``Nothing is forever. We would have liked Coach Rod to stay here, but we realize there is a different side to this and there are other assets that we just don't know about.
``So we just focus on what we can control, and that's preparations for Oklahoma right now.''
The Pitt loss will be hard to forget, but former coach Don Nehlen believes the players won't let it spoil their Fiesta Bowl experience.
``That game was a disappointment, but first of all, this was a young team. If these were all seniors, it might be different. But this is a young team. I think they'll bounce back easily,'' said Nehlen, who coached the Mountaineers in their most recent Fiesta Bowl appearance after the 1988 season. ``They don't have anything to hang their heads about. They're going to the Fiesta Bowl. That's a pretty daggone nice bowl.''
Rodriguez's decision seemed to bother the fans more than the players. He has been criticized on online message boards and by hecklers at the Morgantown airport.
His former players are treating it as a business decision.
``We've still got one game to play. We're going to put all our effort into that game,'' running back Steve Slaton said.

Recent NCAAF Discussions

Monday Night on Tue, Nov 2017 by BamaHater
MNF PLAY on Tue, Nov 2017 by Timmy1961
NFL Opening Line Report Week 12 on Mon, Nov 2017 by Blade

NCAAF Headlines

NCAAF Top Stories

Thumbnail College Football Week 13 Odds We have already arrived at the final full week of the regular season. Here is a look at the opening odds for Week 13of the College Football...
Thumbnail Utah vs. Washington Prediction Will the Washington Huskies cover as huge home favorites on Saturday night when they host fellow Pac-12 rival the Utah Utes at 10:30 p.m. ET?
Thumbnail Air Force vs. Boise State Pick Can Boise State roll to another big win in the Mountain West Conference tonight when it plays host to Air Force at...
Thumbnail Cal vs. Stanford Prediction Will the Stanford Cardinal cover as a double-digit home favorite tonight when it takes on the Cal Golden Bears at 8:00 p.m. ET? Let's dive into...
Thumbnail UCLA vs. USC Prediction Will the USC Trojans cover the point spread as a double-digit home favorite tonight when they host their in-state rivals the UCLA Bruins at 8:00 p.m....

NCAAF Team Pages