MORGANTOWN - Coach Bill Stewart cautioned his West Virginia University football players against taking Florida State's 6-6 record lightly in their New Year's Day clash in the Gator Bowl.
"If they think they're going up against a 6-6 bunch of .500 pansies, we're going to get whipped," he said before leaving with his team for Jacksonville, Fla. "We're going to get whipped decisively. And we should get whipped. We will get our hats handed to us and get tickets to the next plane down the road.
"But I don't have to brow-beat my football team, our football team, by saying 'Don't overlook the Seminoles.' Our guys are smarter."
Stewart noted that, although FSU lost its quarterback, the freshman who took over is playing very well. He also noted that the team has excellent overall speed.
"Is it going to be the Florida State team that took Georgia tech to 49-44? Is it going to be the team that went to Provo - the Death Valley of the West - and dismantled a top 20 BYU team?" Stewart wondered.
"Is it going to be the Florida State team that beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill? I hope not. I hope it's the team that beat Jacksonville State 19-9, and the team that took South Florida 17-7, the same USF team that made us look pretty bad."
He wishes he knew which FSU team is going to show up. But Stewart stressed that he has the utmost respect for Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles. Bowden will be retiring after 56 years of coaching, the last 34 at Tallahassee.
However, Stewart admittedly is more worried about the Mountaineers, who are 9-3 and ranked No. 16 in the nation. He's hopeful that they will get unblocked and finish with a rare 10th victory.
It would be only the eighth time in school history that WVU won as many as 10 games in a season. Stewart believes blocking, tackling, hitting and hustling, which he considers cornerstones of the WVU football program.
"We must step up and play intense football, which we are capable of playing, to win," Stewart said. "I hope that's what you will see."
The Mountaineers reassembled in Jacksonville on Saturday, then resumed bowl preparations on Sunday in full pads. Families of the WVU coaches accompanied the official party which included some university officials and administrators.
An overflow crowd of more than 70,000 fans are assured for Friday's 1 p.m. kickoff. CBS will televise the game.
Stewart said he welcomed the challenge in accepting the Gator Bowl bid against Bowden's team in what will be his swan song to college coaching. He is 80 years old.
The Mountaineer mentor said he was a walk-on linebacker in 1970, Bowden's first year as head coach here.
"I never dreamed that this day would come about," He said. "I'm very honored to be across the field from coach Bowden for his last game."
He added that he just hopes he can keep his emotions in check Friday afternoon.
"We need to start fast like we did at Rutgers and like we did against Pitt," Stewart concluded. "We scored points early and sent a message. And we played well against the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats.
"Then we will be in the hunt because they are going to give us their best shot."