Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ticket Sales Up for Gator Bowl; Game Already Close to Being a Sellout; Credit Given to West Virginia

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ticket Sales Up for Gator Bowl; Game Already Close to Being a Sellout; Credit Given to West Virginia

Article excerpt

Byline: GARRY SMITS

West Virginia's dynamic offense and ticket-hungry fans might result in a Gator Bowl crowd higher than expected when it was announced Dec. 3 that the Mountaineers would play Georgia Tech.

Ticket sales for the Jan. 1 game at Alltel Stadium already have surpassed last year, when slightly more than 60,000 fans attended Virginia Tech's 35-24 victory over Louisville.

This season's game is just a few thousand short of a sellout (73,000) with one week to go.

"We're very pleased with the response locally and by the two schools," said Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett, who said around 69,000 tickets have been sold or fall under the guarantee of 12,750 per team. "We're looking forward to a great game, one that I think will be a classic matchup between the great offense that West Virginia has and Georgia Tech's defense."

No. 13 West Virginia (10-2) reported to Jacksonville on Christmas night and will hold its first practice today at the University of North Florida.

Georgia Tech players were allowed to report to Jacksonville on their own today and will practice for the first time Wednesday at Jacksonville University.

Concerns about overall ticket sales because Georgia Tech (9-4) is returning to Jacksonville less than one month after losing to Wake Forest in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game appear to have been alleviated. Although Georgia Tech hasn't requested any tickets beyond its allotment, West Virginia has requested and received around 3,000 additional tickets.

Local sales have been boosted, Catlett said, because of interest in the West Virginia offense that is second in the nation in rushing and fourth in scoring. Running back Steve Slaton has gained 1,733 yards this season, and quarterback Pat White has 1,039 more on the ground and thrown 15 touchdown passes.

The two have combined for 33 rushing touchdowns.

"Our ticket situation looks better than we thought because West Virginia's fans have performed as usual in buying tickets," Catlett said. "It's what every bowl game that invites West Virginia has come to expect. Their fans appear to be very enthusiastic about this game, and we're getting reports that the hotel rooms are going to fill up. …

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