ORLANDO, Fla. - "We're prepared to beat North Carolina State this year," Robert Sands said as West Virginia's football team continued gearing up Friday for the Champs Sports Bowl clash with N.C. State.
Sands is a key cog in the 21st ranked Mountaineers' highly rated defensive unit. The three-year starting free safety from Miami, Fla., said he was able to scrape up only six tickets for the game, which will be played at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
"But my mom, hopefully, found some tickets," Sand continued. "So there should be some friends as well as family at the game."
He said the players have tried to stay very focused on the business at hand. "We can't control what's happened on the side."
Sands compared the current coaching upheaval to that three years ago when Bill Stewart took over as head coach.
He had been in an interim capacity for the upset victory over No. 3-ranked Oklahoma team in the Fiesta Bowl.
While Stewart has piloted WVU through three consecutive nine-win seasons, Athletic Director Oliver Luck has announced that Stewart will be replaced after 2012 by Dana Holgerson, a 39-year- old offensive coordinator with no prior head-coaching experience.
Holgerson will be paid $1.4 million, plus incentives, when he takes over after serving first as offensive coordinator in 2011. Luck also has fired the three-year offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson.
"I feel real good," said Sands, who has 45 tackles this season and a career collection of 143 for his three years.
For his 3 seasons, he also has six interceptions, nine tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
The 6-foot-4, 221-pound standout has been named to The Sporting News, All-America team. He is also on three different All-Big East first teams.
"Everybody is staying focused on beating NC State," Sands said. "Coach Stewart leaving (after 2012) doesn't mean that we stop playing. We still have a job to do, which is to win the game."
He said all members of the defense are proud of their lofty achievements. In posting a 9-3 record, WVU allowed only 4.2 points per play and 251.3 yards per game.
n West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith said, "N.C. State's defense is very good. They have a lot of speed. They do a lot of blitzing, attacking the QB."
n The Mountaineers are practicing each day at McCracken Field while in Orlando.
n Work-outs will not be open to the media until today.
n The long range weather forecast for Tuesday is a high of 58 and a low of 37.