Sat 10/22/05, 7 pm.
Tampa Bay, FL
Raymond James Stadium
Poll Rank: 20
UL 46-44 W
Rtn Lettermen: 41
Rtn Starters: 17
Poll Rank: NR
Pitt 17-34 L
Rtn Lettermen: 43
Rtn Starters: 18
Last Meeting: 2005
The ascent has been a quick one for the Bulls, which didn't field a football team until 1997 (playing four seasons at the Division I-AA level), moved to Division I-A in 2000, then to Conference USA in 2002 and now into a BCS Conference in the Big East in less time than it takes an ESPN analyst to take a cheap shot at West Virginia. Making the jump that quickly, in most observers' eyes, was a recipe for disaster.
But all of that was before the Bulls knocked off media darling Louisville and began the season with an impressive 3-2 record. Those two losses came to Miami and Penn State, both ranked among the nation's top 10 teams. Neither of those games was a blowout, either, as the Bulls have proven they can compete with anyone.
Making this start even more difficult to believe is the fact that the Bulls are coming off their first losing season (4-7) since 1997, when the first-year I-AA program finished 5-6. UFS's usually strong defense finished No. 77 in the country last year. Bouncing back from that type of season would be difficult enough in Conference USA, but now South Florida is making a solid run at doing it against the top teams in the Big East. If head coach Jim Leavitt, who is the only head coach USF has had in its nine seasons, is not a top candidate for conference coach of the year, then somebody is watching the wrong league.
The biggest rebuilding effort has come on the defensive line, where the undersized Bulls' unit was often overmatched in 2004. This season USF is allowing just 124 yards per game on the ground, and the three seniors on the defensive line have been a big reason for that more than respectable statistic.
Senior defensive end Terrence Royal (6-3, 255 lbs.) is the leader of that group, and he has recorded 15 tackles in five games. Royal is also second on the team with 3.5 sacksm and he has a nose for the football, recovering two fumbles while forcing another one in his five starts.
Another senior, Jon Simmons (6-5, 245 lbs.) starts at the opposite defensive end position on coach Earl Lane's d-line. A native of nearby St. Petersburg, Fla., Simmons has been credited for just five tackles on the season, but he does have a pass breakup on his season resume, and he blocked an extra point on the road at Penn State.
Tackle Tim Jones is the leader in the middle of the line. The senior from Lakeland, Fla., played his biggest game of the year against Louisville, recording five total tackles and returning a punt block in that game. Jones (6-3, 285 lbs.) also has 15 tackles, a sack and a pass breakup on his season totals. Nose tackle Allen Cray (6-0, 295 lbs.) has picked up right where he left off after a successful season as a redshirt freshman in 2004. The Lake City, Fla., product had 11 tackles in his rookie campaign, and he has already come up with five stops in 2005.
|WVU 5-1, 3-0
USF 3-3, 1-1
|Sat 10/22/05 7:00 p.m.|
|Series: First Meeting|
|BCS: WVU-20 USF-44|
|Line: WVU -2|
|Stats & Trends|
South Florida's linebackers are also much improved with three returning starters and some developing young talent. Junior Stephen Nicholas (6-3, 225 lbs.), a former freshman All- American, is now a junior and the star of the group. Playing one of the outside linebacker positions in codefensive coordinators' Wally Burnham and Rick Kravitz' 4-3 attacking scheme, Nicholas leads the team with four sacks through the first five games. Nicholas is second on the club with 29 tackles, 10 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage, and he has three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a recovery to his credit.
Patrick St. Louis (6-1, 230 lbs.) learned a number of lessons in the middle last season, and that has made him even better on the outside. The junior is third on the team with 18 solo tackles, and his two sacks and one forced fumble have been major plays for the Bulls' defense as well.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the entire team is sophomore middle linebacker Ben Moffitt (6-2, 235 lbs.), who has turned a solid unit into a very good one. Moffitt leads the team with 41 total tackles, and six of those have been for a loss. He also counts two sacks, two pass breakups, a blocked kick and an incredible four forced fumbles among his 2005 accomplishments.
The three starters have recorded nine sacks among them, and the backups have provided four more, giving the Bulls a pass rush that they struggled to find in Conference USA a season ago.
That pass rush has been especially important with a secondary that allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for 20 touchdowns while recording just four interceptions all year in 2004. USF has improved that number, only allowing one passing touchdown in five games while coming up with four interceptions, but it is still allowing 182 yards per game through the air.
The USF corners are very young, with two sophomores with little experience manning the two positions. Trae Williams (5-10, 185 lbs.) is the starter on the left side where he has 15 tackles, two breakups and an interception to his credit this season. The sophomore's best game came in the opener against Penn State, where he recorded a team-high six tackles and an interception.
Another sophomore, Mike Jenkins (6-0, 200 lbs.) has taken over the cornerback duties on the right side. He is also performing well considering his lack of experience, and he is sixth on the team with 17 tackles. The Bradenton, Fla., native also has three pass breakups on the season.
Jenkins and Williams might be young, but free safety Carlton Williams (6-3, 205 lbs.) is even younger. The true freshman has stepped right into the lineup, and he is already third on the team with 28 tackles. The rookie has also broken up a pass and recovered a fumble.
The only experienced member of the USF secondary is senior strong safety Johnnie Jones, who had 10 tackles and two pass breakups in the big win over Louisville. Jones leads the team with four pass breakups, and he has 22 total tackles on the season.
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Julmiste is 49-for-95 through the air this season, but he has been plagued by five interceptions compared to just four touchdowns. On the ground the 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound signal-caller has run for 171 yards and a touchdown to help keep opposing defenses off balance.
The Bulls do not have one bigplay guy at receiver, but they are blessed with some depth and a number of very capable pass catchers.
Sophomore Johnny Peyton is Julmiste's favorite target, and he has hauled in 11 passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns in the first five games out of South Florida's no-huddle, spread offensive attack.
Another second year guy, Jackie Chambers, is also a major part of the passing attack. Chambers caught four passes for 35 yards at Penn State, and he has seven catches for 74 yards on the year.
In all, 13 different Bulls have caught passes this season, as the USF offense has been determined to spread the wealth around.
Without standout receivers and with an up-and-down quarterback, the Bulls have had to rely heavily on their running game. That, however, has been just fine with running back Andre Hall. The senior set a school record with 1,357 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2004, and it does not appear as though he is letting up in his final campaign. Hall's production has even forced a change in the Bulls' offensive philosophy, as a blocking back has been added to the scheme for many of the plays.
On the year, Hall has rushed for 519 yards and six touchdowns on 103 carries, and he is also the second-leading receiver with 11 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. He has also proven he can come up big when it matters most, and he totaled 101 allpurpose yards and two touchdowns against Louisville.
The success in the running game can be partially attributed to a veteran offensive line, which has performed above expectations thus far. Thodric Watson (6-5, 195 lbs.), a Junior College All- American and a cousin to Andre Hall, is the starter at left tackle, while Marc Dile (6-4, 280 lbs.) starts at right tackle. The freshman made his first start against Penn State, but he has graded out well for offensive line coach Greg Frey.
Two seniors fill the guard positions with Frank Davis (6-4, 320 lbs.) starting on the left side and Chris Carothers starting on the right. Davis is considered to be the strongest player on the USF roster, and Carothers has made 34 career starts and only improves with each game.
John Miller, who can play any position on the line, starts at center after starting in eight games in 2004. The 6-foot, 275-pound senior has proven to be a leader both on and off the field.
Much like it is in WVU's offense, the USF tight end is used mainly as an extra lineman. Senior Derek Carter does well in that role, and he has also proven he can catch on the few occasions that the Bulls have gone that route. Carter has caught two passes on the year, one of them going for a touchdown against Louisville.
Although the USF offense is considered tricky to some opposing defenses, West Virginia should be comfortable with most of what is sees. Smith learned most of his scheme from Rodriguez, and the WVU defense should see many of the same schemes it sees in practice every day.
Freshman Kyle Bronson has assumed the kickoff duties for the Bulls, and he has been solid, connecting on 3-of-5 field goals including a 47-yarder at the end of the opening half against Louisville. Senior punter Brandon Baker is averaging more than 45 yards per boot, and he has pinned seven punts inside the 20. Baker kicked his sixth career 60-yard punt against Miami.
Saturday's matchup will be the first ever between the two schools on the gridiron. The two schools have met once in basketball with the Bulls winning 80-71 against Joedy Gardner's Mountaineers during the 1977-78 season.