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1997 Toyota Gator Bowl
52nd Gator Bowl
1234 Total
West Virginia 0373 13
North Carolina 01730 20
DateJanuary 1, 1997
StadiumAlltel Stadium
LocationJacksonville, Florida
MVPOscar Davenport, QB (North Carolina)
David Saunders, WR (West Virginia)
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersDon Criqui & Bob Trumpy
Gator Bowl
 < 1996  1998

The 1997 Gator Bowl was a college football postseason bowl game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the North Carolina Tar Heels.


After Virginia Tech, Miami & Syracuse all finished tied for first in the Big East Conference, West Virginia was slated to play in the Gator Bowl. Meanwhile, North Carolina finished 2nd in the Atlantic Coast Conference to undefeated Florida State. This was the first Gator Bowl for the Mountaineers since 1989, and North Carolina's first since 1993. West Virginia was trying to break their five-game bowl losing streak and win their first Gator Bowl while North Carolina was trying to win their first Gator Bowl since 1981.

Game summary

After a scoreless first quarter, 20 total points would be scored in the second quarter, 17 of them by the Tar Heels. It started when Oscar Davenport threw an 18-yard pass to Octavus Barnes in the back corner of the end zone to give the Tar Heels a 7–0 lead with 13:05 remaining in the half. The Tar Heels added on to the lead with a field goal over two minutes later. The Mountaineers responded with a field goal of their own with 2:24 remaining, but the Tar Heels scored on a Davenport run with 1:15 remaining to close out the scoring and give them a 17–3 lead. West Virginia scored on a touchdown pass to make it 17–10, but a UNC field goal by McGee made it 20–10 going into the final quarter. A field goal by the Mountaineers made it 20–13, as the Mountaineers had one last chance to tie it late, in UNC territory with two minutes remaining. But on 4th and 6 at the 25, the Mountaineers were stopped short as the Tar Heels hung on to win. Dré Bly had two interceptions as the Tar Heels forced four turnovers. Davenport went 14-of-26 for 175 yards and 1 touchdown. In a losing effort for the Mountaineers, David Saunders caught 9 passes for 130 yards. [1][2]


North Carolina would return to the Gator Bowl the following year. The Mountaineers would return to the Gator Bowl in 2004.


Statistics North Carolina West Virginia
First Downs 21 19
Yards Rushing 114 66
Yards Passing 175 197
Total Yards 289 263
Punts-Average 7-38.3 3-41.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 1-1
Interceptions 0 3
Penalties-Yards 9-63 4-52


  1. ^ "52nd Edition : North Carolina Wins" (PDF). January 1, 1997. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 5, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  2. ^ "History : Carolina Football" (PDF). January 1, 1997. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 3, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2015.