Crystal Ball 2005 - South Florida

TAMPA, FLA. – Relying primarily on their impressive running game, and getting big plays from their special teams, the West Virginia Mountaineers bounced back from their loss to Louisville the previous week to bury the Bulls of the University of South Florida by the score of 41-17 on Saturday.

The contest was the first ever meeting between the two schools, as USF joined the Big East conference for the 2005 season. The game was played before 65,310 fans at Raymond James Stadium – a USF attendance record.

Reserve tailback Erick Phillips was the leading rusher for the Mountaineers with 165 yards on just 13 carries – an average of over 12 yards per attempt. Jason Gwaltney added 131 yards as West Virginia put two ball carriers over the century mark for the second time in 2005 and only the thirty-second time in school history. Gwaltney has tallied 914 rushing yards so far this year, putting him within 224 yards of Avon Cobourne's WVU freshman rushing record of 1,138.

WVU quarterback Patrick White, substituting for a banged up Adam Bednarik, completed 10 of his 17 passing attempts for 97 yards and one interception. In all, the Mountaineer offense totaled 498 total yards on the day to just 323 total yards for the Bulls.

The Mountaineers showed a glimpse of what was to come by taking the opening kickoff and driving 71 yards in nine plays. Almost all the yardage was gained running the ball as Gwaltney picked up 32, Pernell Williams 21 and White 10. Breaking up the running plays up was a seven-yard White completion to Darius Reynaud. From a yard out, White scored on a designed quarterback sweep for a 7-0 WVU lead.

USF failed to pick up a first down and WVU again called upon the nation's ninth best rushing offense to add to its lead. From its own 26, the Mountaineers completed an eleven-play march to paydirt. The big play was a 28-yard ramble by Gwaltney in which the heralded Mountaineer freshman – the leading first year rusher in Division 1 – bowled over three different Bulls players. Completions by White to Rayshawn Bolden for 16 yards and to Jason Colson for nine complemented the running attack during the march, which concluded with Williams going over the goal line from two yards out for a 14-0 Mountaineer lead with 4:13 remaining in the first quarter.

USF again failed to gain a first down and WVU took over at their own 19-yard line. On the second play from scrimmage, reserve tailback Erick Phillips, who has struggled to overcome a serious knee injury, broke free for a 48-yard run to the USF 30-yard line. A White pass to Rayshawn Bolden just missed its mark on a first down toss into the end zone, and two rushes by Phillips left West Virginia short of a first down. Pat McAfee came on to convert a 40-yard field goal and the Mountaineers led 17-0 as the first quarter came to a close.

The Bulls began to show some offensive life in the second quarter as junior quarterback Pat Julmiste began to find open receivers in the Bulls' four wideout sets. Completions to Jackie Chambers, S. J. Green and Johnny Peyton, coupled with a pair of third down conversions from senior running back Andre Hall moved the Bulls from their own 31 to the WVU 21. Julmiste then scrambled to the WVU 11, then on down from the six, Julmiste's pass intended for Cedric Hill was broken up by Jahmile Addae. USF settled for a Kyle Bronson 23-yard field goal, removing the zero on their side of the ledger with 11:33 left in the second quarter.

WVU's special teams then produced a big play. Vaughan Rivers took Bronson's kick-off at the goal line and sped down the Bulls' sideline behind a perfectly-formed wall, with Bronson finally pushing Rivers out of bounds at the USF 26. White then handed off to Gwaltney, who spun around the right side of the Mountaineer line to the USF eight. However, the West Virginia red zone offense failed to cross the goal line as the Bulls stuffed the line of scrimmage on three consecutive Mountaineer rushing plays. McAfee came on to boot his second field goal, this one from 21 yards out, and WVU stretched its lead to 20-3.

On the ensuing possession USF benefited from mental mistakes on the part of the visitors to post their second score. A roughing the passer call on a third down incompletion gave USF new life, and two plays later a defensive holding penalty gave the home team another first down. Three plays later an offside call gave USF its third gift first down on the series. From the WVU 19, Julmiste hit Peyton on a crossing pattern to the WVU two, and two plays later Hall went over from a yard out. The score cut WVU's lead to 20-10 with 5:02 left before intermission, and it remained their at halftime.

On the second half kick-off the WVU special teams again delivered a huge play. Reserve linebacker Bobby Hathaway delivered a jarring hit on Bulls' kick returner Trae Williams, causing a fumble. The Mountaineers' Akeem Jackson recovered at the USF 17-yard line and the WVU offense quickly capitalized on the turnover. White picked up seven on a quarterback draw, Gwaltney burrowed his way to the four, then White lofted a pass to Bolden on a corner pattern for the score and a 27-10 West Virginia advantage.

USF reached midfield on its next possession but punted. Starting at its own 13-yard line, West Virginia mounted the drive that would put the game out of USF's reach. Romping through gaping holes created by West Virginia's veteran offensive line, the Mountaineers' talented rushing corps tallied all but 11 yards on a grinding touchdown march. During the drive, Gwaltney picked up 27 yards, Pernell Williams added 29 yards, Owen Schmitt picked up of 4 yards and White tallied another 13. From the Bulls' three, Gwaltney burst through the middle of the line and into the end zone, giving West Virginia an insurmountable 34-10 lead with 7:13 remaining in the third quarter.

After an exchange of possessions, West Virginia drove from its 28 to the Bulls 19. Phillips provided much of the muscle on the drive, picking up 37 yards on six carries. When the drive stalled, McAfee came on to attempt another field goal, but this time it was wide to the right.

USF then mounted a solid drive, with Julmiste directing the Bulls to the WVU 12-yard line. There, however, the Mountaineer defense rose to the occasion. A sack by West Virginia's Keilen Dykes on second down sent the Bulls backwards to the 23, but two plays later the Mountaineers gave USF another gift when a late hit out of bounds gave the home team a first down at the WVU 11. However, USF could gain just three yards on the next three plays, and the Bulls called a timeout to set up the fourth down play. Julmiste's pass, intended for Cedric Hill, was intercepted by West Virginia's Dee McCann in the end zone to end the USF scoring threat.

With 7:35 remaining, WVU went to its running game to kill the clock. However, Phillips found a huge hole on the left side of the line and burst through untouched on his way to a 63-yard touchdown jaunt that gave West Virginia its final points of the afternoon. USF managed to sooth its wounds by scoring on the game's final possession, a seven-yard run by reserve running back Billy Henderson against the Mountaineer reserves, yielding the final score of 41-17.

"I was just delighted to see Erick have a big day," said WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez following the game. "Nobody has worked harder than Erick has to overcome his injury. He's kind of been a forgotten man to some of our fans but not to our team. He's been a real inspiration to his teammates and to all of us. No one deserves to have a big day more than he does and I'm just happy he could bust loose with a big day today. Of course, it helps when you have an offensive line that was doing a good job up front to clear the way."

Rodriguez was also pleased with the play of his defense.

"Anytime you hold a team to 10 points that's a big accomplishment," he said, discounting the late garbage time score. "I thought our line did a good job getting pressure on their quarterback. We didn't drop him too much but we hurried several of his throws and that took him out of his rhythm a little bit."

WVU's offensive coordinator and running backs coach Calvin Magee added, "As a coach you want guys who bust their rumps on every play and give you 110 percent all the time. That's a perfect description of Erick Phillips. He was determined to come all the way back from that bad knee and he showed today what hard work, focus and never losing faith in yourself can do."

WVU special teams coach Bill Stewart was equally effusive in praising his units. "We got some big plays today and when we do that we increase our chances of winning a lot. We'll face some games where the offense may not be clicking and if we can break a big special teams play it really helps."

USF Coach Jim Leavitt shook his head when asked about the WVU running attack after the game.

"When your number three, four – whatever he is – guy goes for 165 yards then you have a whale of a running game and West Virginia certainly does. We game planned to stop Gwaltney but there's just so many weapons they have that it's virtually impossible to stop them. They trot out two, three running backs and shift them into the slot, shift them here, shift them there, send them here, send them there. There's no way to know where they're coming from. That was as well schemed of a rushing offense as I've ever seen. I don't know how many variations they have but they must have Rhodes Scholars for running backs to keep all of that offense straight.

"They got some big plays on special teams and that really hurt us. Against a top quality team like WVU you can't give away things like that and expect to have a chance to win," continued Leavitt. "West Virginia is the type of program we emulate and want to become. They're consistently good, have great athletes, play with great energy all day long and really get after you. We'll learn from this and we'll get better having played them."

USF fell to 2-5 (0-3) on the season and will next face Big East foe Rutgers at Piscataway, N.J. West Virginia improved to 5-3 overall, 2-2 in the Big East. The Mountaineers will face the Huskies of Connecticut in a midweek contest at Milan Puskar Stadium's Mountaineer Field in Morgantown.

PASSING – WVA – White 10-17-97-1-1 USF – Julmiste 19-41-188-0-1 Denson 1-3-16-0-0 TOTALS 20-44-204-0-1

RUSHING – WVA – Gwaltney 19-131-1 Williams 14-77-1 Phillips 13-165-1 Schmitt 2-8 White 6-20-1 TOTALS 54-401-4 USF – Hall 15-98-1 Henderson 4-21-1 TOTALS 19-119-2

RECEIVING – WVA – Bolden 2-20-1 Myles 2-20 Rivers 1-11 Reynaud 2-16 Thompson 1-12 Colson 1-9 Davis 1-9 TOTALS 10-97-1 USF – Peyton 5-48 Hill 4-52 Chambers 3-34 Green 2-27 Lewis 1-11 King 2-15 Bain 2-17 TOTALS 19-204-0

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this article are intended for entertainment purposes only. No criticism, direct or implied, is intended. The author assumes no responsibility for any errors or inconsistencies and has produced the series strictly for the enjoyment of Mountaineer football fans during the agonizing summer months without WVU football.

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