By JOHN WICKLINE
MORGANTOWN The West Virginia University football team has been playing with the motto, "They remember November," a reference to the bowl scouts searching for the top talent to appear in their lucrative games.
Coach Bill Stewart knows his players read about and hear all of the speculation as to where the Mountaineers will end up this post-season, talk that has only intensified after the 19-16 upset of then- No. 8 Pitt last Friday.
"We're not done with our season yet," Stewart said Sunday during his weekly teleconference. "Let's get done with game 12 before we worry about game 13. We have to play Rutgers first before we play the bowl game."
WVU,8-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big East Conference, travels to New Jersey on Saturday for a clash with Rutgers, also 8-3 overall and 3-3 in the Big East. Kickoff is scheduled for noon, and the game will be televised on ESPN.
A win could all but guarantee the Mountaineers a spot in the Gator Bowl, as that game gets the second choice not the second place team in the Big East. The winner of Saturday's Cincinnati-Pitt game will determine which of those two schools will represent the conference in the Bowl Championship Series.
"Rutgers is back and hitting on all cylinders," Stewart said in reference to the Scarlet Knights' latest surge in the standings. "They dismantled Louisville. They're on a roll, and they are gunning for the Mountaineers. It will be an absolute gut check."
Rutgers has the conference's top defense, allowing only an average of 16.8 points per game and 315 yards of offense. Freshman quarterback Tom Savage ranks third among Big East passers with 176 yards per game.
His favorite target is Tim Brown, who has caught 51 passes and is leading the conference with an average of 95 yards per contest.
That quarterback is keeping them in each and every game," Stewart said, adding, "When I watched that South Florida film, I said, 'Wow, these young men really know how to play. What Rutgers did to South Florida and Louisville could happen to us. They dismantled those two teams, one we got shellacked by and the other we barely beat at home."