The Jim Leavitt Report - West Virginia

Bulls Head Coach Jim Leavitt talks about Fridays top 20 showdown against the Mountaineers in front of a sold out stadium for the first time ever. Only at USFNation.com Get It First, Get it Fast

Head Coach Jim Leavitt

 

"West Virginia is an awfully good football team. You all know that. They wouldn't be ranked fifth in the country if they weren't good in every way," said Bulls Head Coach Jim Leavitt. "Special teams, they're very strong, I know everyone wants to talk about their offense and defense. They are certainly well coached, and they have a lot of tremendous athletes. They play with a lot of confidence."

The two programs have a short history, only playing twice.  Last Season in the two programs only second meeting, the Bulls upset the (No.7) Mountaineers 24-19 at Morgantown. The win ended an eight game winning streak for the Mountaineers and avenged the 28-13 loss in the team's first meeting in 2005, where White and Slaton ran wild combining for 263 rushing yards and four scores. In last years win the Bulls lead by George Selvie held Slaton to 43 yards and the Mountaineers to 137 total rushing yards, while Matt Grothe threw for 279 yards and two scores.

 

"We're going to play hard," said Leavitt. "They beat us two years ago, then we beat them last year, we just have to play."

 

This season (No.5) West Virginia is 4-0 and has averaged only 168 (102nd) yards passing, but with Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Divine leading the way, has averaged a staggering 357 (2nd) yards a game on the ground.

"Probably all of us see the same thing. Great speed, they run well, they know what they're doing, they play with confidence. They have got a lot of weapons on offense. The defense plays well. The quarterback is as good as it is. He's up for the Heisman. The running back, he's up for the Heisman too."

Pat White has been exceptional for West Virginia going 19-2 since he started his first game against UCONN in 2005. This season White has passed for 617 yards and 6 TD's, while rushing for 286 yards and 6 rushing scores.

"He can run, throw and he's smart," said Leavitt. "It's a good system that fits his abilities"

The Mountaineers ground game is lead by star back Steve Slaton who leads the NCAA in TD's (47), YPG (125), and this season already has 502 yards rushing and 9  TD's while adding 115 receiving yards and a score.

"He's very good. He runs very hard and very strong," said Leavitt. "We've got to tackle well, that's real important and you have got to have people running."

In order for the Bulls to come out with a victory they will have to contain White, Slaton and the Mountaineers vaulted rushing attack. They need to follow the same recipe as they did last year when the Bulls forced West Virginia into 4 turnovers and changed the complexion of the game.

"You have got to take advantage. Every play is that big, said Coach Leavitt. "You have got to play. Everybody is going to play with emotion."

The Bulls defense enters Friday nights contest allowing only 237.7 total yards a game (7th), 79 yards rushing (13th), and 158.7 yards passing (15th), and shut down UNC's  passing attack, but the Mountaineer's  will be the toughest test yet.

"Friday night there's no doubt about it," said Leavitt. "They're going to get tested in a big way."

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 Big time football has officially hit USF as thousands of students waited in line that stretched nearly a 1/4 mile to get tickets early Monday. The Bulls raised the student allotment to 12,500 for this game and hundreds camped out the night before in anticipation of the big game.

"Yeah, that was pretty neat," said Leavitt. "I went over there a little bit. I had shorts and t-shirt on looking at film last night walked through the grass in bare feet a little bit. They were a lot of fun; they were really fun, kind of neat!"

On Tuesday the Bulls announced that Friday night's game against West Virginia will be the first sold-out game in USF history.

"Am I surprised that we're getting a sellout crowd? No, I thought the day would come some day. That doesn't surprise me, when, what, how, where," Said Leavitt. "I'm not concerned with all of that. It doesn't surprise me at all."

This game has all the makings of a classic showdown between conference foes, and all the media attention and distractions that goes with it.

"There are distractions. There are always distractions," said Coach Leavitt. "There have been in every game that we've played. Our guys are pretty mature about those things. Hopefully they'll handle it well."

 

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After last years loss to USF, West Virginia Coach Rodriguez' raided the Bull coaching staff, grabbing offensive coordinator Rod Smith, and offensive line coach Greg Frey. Frey was the last original assistant for the Bulls, and he and Smith are very familiar with the Bulls players.

"They know our program, they know our players, said Leavitt. "Our guys are going to be excited. When the ball snaps, things just happen."

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The Bulls have come a long way in a short 11 years. Going into Friday's game being ranked 18th and playing in front of a sold out stadium seems so far a way from the programs humble beginnings.

"I was real concerned with making sure we had a washer and dryer, and getting that drain big enough," said Leavitt of the early years. "I worried about using our coaches' cars to keep the lights on our players."

Leavitt remembers everything and hasn't lost sight of what the program has accomplished on his watch.

"As I sit back and reflect about all the things that happen. Sometimes I reflect in the summer and I sit back and walk where the trailers were and I say hey we got a facility now. We've taken steps. We now have a locker room. We have a weight room. We have offices and we have meeting rooms, said Leavitt. "We didn't always have those things when we were a few years old. When we get that dining hall, it'll be great."

The players on the Bulls roster weren't here for those memories, but many have seen the program grow into what it is, and Leavitt doesn't want them to forget where the program came from, where it's going, and what's important in life..

"I want our players to realize that every day is really important. It is special to be and to live here and to go to school and interact with people, said Leavitt. "It's really big. You know I can't speak for my players. They're going to do whatever they think is best. I'm just trying not to confuse myself."

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