MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU football fans are nearing the conclusion of a good, albeit disappointing season.
That doesn’t mean they’re not interested in seeing a strong finish for 8-3 WVU football against a ranked opponent and a historic rival.
“I think we’ll do a good showing,” said Randy Watson, who spoke to WAJR by phone from Florida ahead of Friday’s game. “The guys, the quarterback has nothing to lose. They should be pretty relaxed. I’m hoping for the best.”
Quarterback Will Grier, receiver Gary Jennings, and linemen Yodny Cajuste — a significant chunk of offensive star power — will all miss Friday’s game against No. 20 Syracuse. Grier and Cajuste chose to sit out, beginning preparations for the NFL Draft. Dane Brugler, an NFL Draft analyst for The Athletic, ranks Grier in his top five among draft-eligible quarterbacks and Cajuste in his top ten among draft eligible tackles.
Jennings, also looking at a possible NFL future, is recovering from a leg injury he’s been fighting through since a win over Baylor.
Pre-game coverage of Friday’s Camping World Bowl featuring No. 16 WVU and No. 20 Syracuse begins on MetroNews at 12 p.m. The ESPN-broadcast of the game will be carried live on MetroNews stations following the conclusion of the Sports Brunch.
Kick-off is set for 5:15 p.m.
Watson, a Mannington native, estimates he’s been to around “90 percent” of WVU’s bowl games since his first trip in 1984 — a 31-14 win against TCU on New Year’s Eve at the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, Texas.
“I’ve mainly been surprised through the years with how West Virginia plays in games,” he said. “A lot of times, when I think they’re really going to win they wind up laying an egg. Other times, like when they played Oklahoma in the (2008) Fiesta Bowl, they just kicked butt.”
He hasn’t seen many wins lately though. WVU is 3-6 in bowl games since the transformative 2008 Fiesta Bowl, a 48-28 win over No. 3 Oklahoma, considered one of the most iconic wins in program history. That’s the last bowl game win Watson has seen live.
“I’ve been there through the good games and the bad,” he said. “It’s been fun. I look forward to many more, hopefully.”
Fans can begin congregating late Thursday afternoon for a WVU pep rally at Pointe Orlando. Morgantown native Crystal Rankin said that’s where she’ll be — taking in the sights and sounds after just arriving to Orlando late Wednesday night.
“Fans that we’ve ran into have been great,” she said. “This place is packed.”
Unlike Watson, who is taking an extended stay this week in sunny Florida, Rankin is still exploring Orlando.
“We did not get in until late last night, so we are just now venturing out,” she said.
Watson is certainly hopeful to break his personal bowl game losing streak — not wanting to see a repeat of the last two trips to Orlando — losses in 2016 and 2010 to Miami (FL) and North Carolina State respectively.
But, for now, he is relishing the entirety of the trip — spending bowl game-eve nearly an hour away in Titusville with his friends and enjoying the 80-degree weather.
“The bowl game is just a four hour piece of the trip,” Watson said. “It’s mainly to get together with family, friends, and to relax, get away from the cold. We’re down here today, I’ve got shorts and birkenstocks on.”
“And,” he adds, “there’s rumors of a cold beer here and there too. You never know.”