The West Virginia Mountaineers are bowl bound and will head to Phoenix, Arizona where they will take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, according to Action Network’s Brett McMurphy.
The Mountaineers earned bowl eligibility on the backs of a 4-2 second half surge where the offensive play calling adjusted, the offensive line improved and the strength of the opponent decreased. The Mountaineers rushed their way to victories over TCU, Texas and Kansas and in the most complete effort of the season, went toe to toe with Iowa State and came out victorious.
How the season ends for the Mountaineers will help shape the narrative of the 2022 season, which figures to be an important season for the team. Currently, head coach Neal Brown is 17-17 in 3 seasons at the helm and a win will give the Mountaineers a second straight winning season, a second straight bowl win and improvement year over year (5 wins to 6 wins to 7 wins). A loss would negate all of those items.
The Guaranteed Rate Bowl has known many names throughout its life from 1989 until now. It was originally played as the Copper Bowl before the name was bought out and it became the Insight.com Bowl from 1997-2001. In 2002 the dot com was dropped and it was just the Insight Bowl until 2011 when Buffalo Wild Wings bought the rights and it became the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for two years. From 2014-2017 the bowl game was played under its original intended moniker of Cactus Bowl. When Kellog’s became the sponsor, they rebranded it to Cheez-Its Bowl. Last year Cactus Bowl was set to return to the name before the bowl game was canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The game has been played at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, making the game one of two active bowl games to be played in a baseball-specific stadium with the other being the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
This will be West Virginia’s third time playing in this bowl game, tying them for the second most appearances with Cal and Minnesota. Kansas State has the most at four. The Mountaineers first appeared in 1998 when they lost to #23 Missouri 34-31. The Mountaineers last appeared in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, then known as the Cactus Bowl, in 2015, where they beat the Arizona State Sun Devils behind the efforts of Skyler Howard, Wendell Smallwood and Shaq Pettaway, with David Sills catching the game winning touchdown.
Marc Bulger was named the Bowl Game Offensive MVP in 1998 when he threw for four touchdowns and nearly led the Mountaineers to a come-from-behind victory in a game they were down 31-10 in the third quarter.
In 2015, Skyler Howard was named Offensive MVP for throwing for a bowl record 532 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Guaranteed Rate Bowl will be played on December 28, 2021 on ESPN, starting at 10:15PM ET.