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Sunshine State of Mind

NC State has accepted a bid to play No. 22 West Virginia in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando on Dec. 28. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN.

The Wolfpack (8-4 overall, 5-3 ACC) will be making its second bowl appearance of head coach Tom O’Brien‘s four-year tenure at the school and its 25th all-time postseason appearance (12-11-1). The Pack is one of nine bowl-qualified teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“The Champs Sports Bowl is always run in a first-class manner under the direction of [Florida Citrus Sports CEO] Steve Hogan,” said NC State director of athletics Deborah A. Yow. “Orlando is also the perfect place to be in late December with Wolfpack family and friends, for a terrific matchup against West Virginia.”

In his 14 years as a head coach, O’Brien has coached 10 teams that have earned postseason bowl bids. His last seven teams at Boston College won bowl games, an NCAA-best at that time. In his second season in Raleigh, he led the Pack to an appearance in the Bowl, where it lost to Rutgers, 29-23.

“Our team could not be more excited about the opportunity to play in the Champs Sports Bowl,” O’Brien said. “A trip to Orlando is a great reward for their hard work this season and we are are happy to have a quality opponent like West Virginia.

“We hope that our fans will paint the town red.”

West Virginia (9-3) earned the Big East’s bid into the bowl after Connecticut clinched the league’s championship and BCS game berth with its victory Saturday over South Florida. The Mountaineers, coached by Bill Stewart, closed the regular season with a 35-14 victory Saturday over Rutgers in Morgantown, WVa.

This will be the third time the Wolfpack and Mountaineers have faced each other in a postseason bowl game. On Dec. 29, 1972, at the end of Lou Holtz’s first season at NC State, the Wolfpack throttled the Mountaineers, 49-12, for the biggest postseason margin of victory in school history. On Dec. 31, 1975, in the final game for both Holtz and West Virginia coach Bobby Bowden at their respective schools, the Mountaineers took a 13-10 victory.

Owen Spencer, R.J. Mattes and the NC State Wolfpack went 8-4 overall this season.

NC State’s series with the Mountaineers consists nine games, dating back to 1914, when the school was still known as the North Carolina School of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (NC A&M). The Aggies won the inaugural game against West Virginia, 26-13. But the Mountaineers own a slim 4-5 all-time record in the series.

The last time the teams met was on Sept. 22, 1979, when the Wolfpack scored a 38-14 victory in the only game in the series played on West Virginia’s home field. Orlando is a familiar postseason destination for the Pack, which has played three previous bowl games at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.

The Pack, led by legendary running back Ted Brown in the final game of his career, beat Pittsburgh 30-17 in the 1978 Tangerine Bowl. State lost to Pittsburgh 34-18 in the 2001 Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl. And, in the final game for Philip Rivers and Jerricho Cotchery, beat Kansas 56-26 in the 2003 Mazda Tangerine Bowl, setting a school record for most points scored in a postseason bowl game.

Wolfpack Club members and NC State fans who would like to be a part of the school’s limited ticket allocation, with seats on the east side of the stadium, can reserve tickets via this link now. The priorty deadline for Wolfpack Club members is Dec. 10.

Tickets are $65 each and can be purchased on-line at the Ticket Center or by phone through the NC State Ticket Office at (919) 865-1510.