Mountaineers get trip to N.Y. to earn stripes
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West Virginia is bound for the Bronx to face former Big East Conference rival Syracuse Dec. 29 in the Pinstripe Bowl in a twist of irony to end the team's first year in the Big 12 Conference.
The Mountaineers won their final two games to finish 7-5 overall, 4-5 in the Big 12, only to learn Sunday they will play an old rival at Yankee Stadium a year after leaving the Big East.
"I am pleased that our football team will get the reward of playing in a bowl game. Changing conferences has been an adjustment, and I am proud of how our players have handled themselves and prepared," said athletic director Oliver Luck in a statement. "I am also excited for our fans, who will get the chance to visit a great city in close proximity to the state of West Virginia. I am looking forward to seeing Yankee Stadium filled with Gold and Blue."
The two teams previously met in October 2011, when the Orange stunned the Mountaineers, 49-23, at Carrier Dome.
That game took place less than a month after Syracuse announced it would leave the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, and just weeks before West Virginia announced it would leave for the Big 12.
The two teams have a rich history that spans six decades and dates to 1945.
Syracuse has won the past two meetings, and holds the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy, which annually has gone to the winner of the game since 1993.
The Orange, which played in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl in 2010, beating Kansas State, 36-34, turned around a 2-4 start to this season to finish 7-5.
West Virginia endured a five game losing streak -- the program's worst since 1986 -- before ending on a two-game win streak with victories against Iowa State and Kansas.
"We finished the season strong with two straight wins, and I am glad our players get the reward of playing in a bowl game," coach Dana Holgorsen saidin a statement. "This will be West Virginia's 11th straight bowl appearance and one more chance for our fans to see the 2012 Mountaineers. Playing in New York City will provide a national stage and Yankee Stadium will be a great venue for our seniors to finish their careers."
West Virginia players had expressed a desire to go to San Diego's Holiday Bowl and bask in the sunshine of Southern California, but Baylor -- which played well down the stretch -- earned that bid.
"Whatever bowl game we'll be invited [to], we'll be more than happy to go to and just have a good game," wide receiver Stedman Bailey said Saturday night after a victory against Kansas.
Many fans hoped the beloved Backyard Brawl could be resuscitated in the Pinstripe Bowl after Pitt became bowl-eligible Saturday with a win against South Florida to end its season.
But Syracuse accepted an invite to the game shortly after 5 p.m., ending the possibility of West Virginia facing Pitt.
The Big 12 sent eight of nine teams to bowl games: Kansas State to the Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma to the Cotton Bowl, Texas to the Alamo Bowl, TCU to the Valley of the Sun Bowl, Texas Tech to the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Baylor to the Holiday Bowl, Iowa State to the Liberty Bowl and Oklahoma State to the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
That 90 percent is the highest in college football history, according to the league.
The Pinstripe Bowl is the league's only bowl tie-in that includes a matchup with a Big East team.
The school distributed ticket information Sunday night. Tickets in the West Virginia allotment are $90 and located in the 200 level of Yankee Stadium.
First Published December 3, 2012 12:06 am