MORGANTOWN - Dana Holgorsen was talking Sunday night about what it was that enabled his West Virginia football team to turn things around in the last three games of the season and earn a share of the Big East championship.
The key, he said - and as he has said before - was getting the Mountaineers excited about playing each week.
Well, now that it's down to just one game to go, excitement shouldn't be an issue. Not when the game is the Orange Bowl.
West Virginia's late-season run paid off Sunday night when the BCS standings and bowl pairings were announced and the Mountaineers, as expected, were a part of it.
West Virginia (9-3) will play in a BCS bowl for the third time in the last seven years, making its first ever appearance in the Orange Bowl. The opponent will be Clemson (10-3), which on Saturday night crushed then-No. 5 Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, winning 38-10.
The game will be played Jan. 4 at Sun Life Stadium with an 8 p.m. kickoff. It is the last of the four regular BCS bowl games before the BCS national championship game five days later. The Rose and Fiesta bowls will be played Jan. 2 and the Sugar Bowl Jan. 3.
Excitement? Well, if it was an issue before it shouldn't be now.
"We challenged the guys to get a little bit more excited about playing the game,'' Holgorsen said, referring to the aftermath of a 38-35 loss at home to Louisville on Nov. 5 that appeared to doom any hopes the Mountaineers had of winning the Big East title. "When you face adversity like that, you've got to rally the troops and get everybody to focus on what's important, which is getting excited about playing the game of football.''
After winning the last three games against Cincinnati, Pitt and South Florida - all in dramatic fashion with a blocked field goal against the Bearcats, a defensive stand against the Panthers and a rally against USF last Thursday capped by a last-play field goal - West Virginia had to wait around twice to see what would happen with its BCS bowl fate. The first piece of the puzzle fell into place Saturday, when Cincinnati beat Connecticut to forge a three-way tie for the league title and send the tie-break to the BCS standings.
And while it was widely believed WVU would be the highest ranked of the three tied teams - Cincinnati and Louisville were the others - it didn't become official until Sunday night.
West Virginia was ranked No. 23 in the final BCS standings, the same as last week. Cincinnati and Louisville remained outside the Top 25.
All of which sets up what might be one of the most entertaining of the BCS games, even though the teams are the lowest ranked among the 10 that earned bids. Clemson finished No. 15.