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WVU's Slaton uncertain for Gator Bowl

Steve Slaton Steve Slaton
Steve Slaton Steve Slaton
Rich Rodriguez Rich Rodriguez

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -West Virginia All-American tailback Steve Slaton is expected to be limited in the Gator Bowl - if he plays at all against Georgia Tech on Monday - because of a bruised left thigh.

"He made some progress yesterday,'' West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said Sunday. "We're going to see how he feels to run around a little bit (Sunday). If he makes as much progress (Sunday) as he did (Saturday), we're optimistic he can play some. I don't know how much - he probably wouldn't be able to play, you know, 70 or 80 snaps.''

Slaton, a sophomore, ran for 1,733 yards and 7.1 a carry this season for the Mountaineers, who ranked third in the nation in rushing at 302 yards per game.

Backup tailback Jeremy Bruce is out with a hamstring injury, which could move senior Jason Colson into a prominent role. West Virginia can also rely more on quarterback Pat White, who ran for 1,074 yards and 17 TDs, out of the spread-option attack and fullback Owen Schmitt.

"(Colson) may be listed as a third-string guy, but there's no question we've got complete confidence that he can do everything we want out of our tailback,'' Rodriguez said.

Georgia Tech said it wasn't taking anything for granted.

"I think even with a bruised thigh or whatever's going on with his leg, he's still very dangerous,'' Georgia Tech defensive tackle Joe Anoai said of Slaton. "He's got tremendous speed. Even with a small injury he can still break away. We feel that they have a backup, he could be just as good, so we're going to prepare for Slaton.''

The Yellow Jackets are also playing with a backup in the starting lineup.

Four-year starting quarterback Reggie Ball was ruled academically ineligible a week and a half before the game, so sophomore Taylor Bennett will get his second career start in his place.

Tech (9-4) has struggled at times under Ball, and coach Chan Gailey has said he was thinking of playing Bennett anyway.

West Virginia is vying for its first Gator Bowl win, despite appearing in the game three of the past four years. Tech is playing its ninth bowl game in the last 10 years.

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