Matchups: West Virginia - USF

Clashes in the passing game and along the front line highlight the battles to watch as West Virginia hosts USF in the regular season finale for both teams. Game Scorecard
Sat 12/6/08 8:00 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 7-4
Last Game
Pitt L 15-19
Radio: Sirius, MSN
Record: 7-4
Last Game
UConn W 17-13
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2008 Schedule

Series: USF 2-1
First Meeting: 2005
Last Meeting: 2007
Press Release
Season Stats
2008 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast


WVU offensive tackle Selvish Capers vs. USF defensive end Jarriett Buie

Yes, George Selvie is the standout player on the USF defense. But if Capers can't handle Buie one-on-one, West Virginia will again be stymied on offense.

While Selvie gets most of the headlines, Buie provides excellent play on the other end of the Bull defensive front. Granted, some of that may come due to the attention paid to Selvie, but in the end it's the "what" not the "why" that's important. And the "what" in this case is productivity. Buie is second on USF's season sack list, has broken up passes and forced fumbles, and generally raises nearly as much havoc as Selvie. The constant pressure and upfield penetration he generates, combined with that of Selvie, makes the Bulls very difficult to run on.

With Selvie requiring double teams, or at least extra attention, Capers will have to handle Buie one-on-one, more often than not. The Bulls have overloaded WVU's zone blocking scheme with too many defenders to run against, so if the Mountaineers go to the pass, Capers will have to keep Buie contained. That's easier said than done, of course, as few teams have had success in keeping USF's defensive line out of the backfield.

In order to achieve his goal, Capers will have to maintain his balance and not reach for Buie when he tries to speed rush wide. When he gains contact, he will have to lock Buie up and not allow him to use his arms for leverage, especially on inside moves. It will be a tough assignment, but one that will have to be carried out successfully if WVU is to get its eighth win of the season.

WVU pass defense vs. USF receivers

It's not so much the quality as the quantity of the Bull receiving corps that makes this a matchup to keep on eye on Saturday evening.

Robert Sands
Eight USF receivers have caught at least 11 passes this year, making its receiving corps a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts. Add in the mobility and playmaking acumen of USF quarterback Matt Grothe, and the potential for a big play, especially out of chaos, increases greatly.

While the Bull receivers certainly have talent and skill, it's the fact that all are involved in the passing game that makes them more dangerous. Grothe has no qualms about sending the ball skyward to any of his receivers on the field, and unlike West Virginia the Bulls aren't shy about throwing the ball in the middle of the field. Although Grothe is a very good scrambler, he excels at buying time in the pocket and waiting for receivers to clear. WVU saw that a year ago, when a lengthy second quarter scoring pass came after the Mountaineers had all but sacked the tough QB.

In order to combat that, West Virginia will have to be very disciplined on defense. Free safety Robert Sands and backup Eain Smith will have to make good reads and not give up the middle of the field, and make sure that West Virginia's downfield coverage maintains discipline. That's very difficult for any defense to do when a play breaks down, much less one that is keyed in the back end by a true freshman and a red-shirt one, but that is the task that must be completed to keep the Bulls from hitting big plays out of broken ones. USF will certainly get some passing yardage against WVU – the key will be to keep those gains to manageable chunks, not big ones.


Will the weather play a factor? USF certainly can't be familiar with the ins and outs of playing in cold weather, but it's probably a matter of more personal import than it is to a team as a whole. Throwing and catching the ball when it's cold is different than in warm temperatures, and some players may adjust to that better than others.

This is one place where pre-game warm-ups may be instructive and tell a tale of what's to come. Watch USF as it goes through its paces. How do the receivers handle the ball? How does the ball come out of the quarterback's had on passes? Do runners cradle the ball with two hands?

Weather could certainly affect West Virginia as well, as it did against Pitt on a few plays last week. Just because the Mountaineers have played a couple of games with temps in the 40s and 30s doesn't mean they've mastered it.

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In the past two games, USF has come up with defensive scores, which provided the margin of victory in each contest. Eliminate those, and WVU is 3-0 all-time against the Bulls rather than the current 1-2. That's not excuse-making – it's reality. If WVU gives up another defensive (or special teams) score to the Bulls, that mark will move to 1-3. The teams are simply too evenly matched to spot one another big advantages such as those.

This also plays into the turnover battle, which is also typically a key element in such games. WVU is 48-3 in games in which it runs the ball over fewer times than its foe since 2002, and there's no hocus pocus in that stat. Protect the ball, make foes earn their scores, and wins usually result.

* * *

Finally, how will West Virginia handle adversity? The Mountaineers are in a position that no one on this team has been in – namely, playing a perceived "meaningless" game at the end of the year before appearing in a less-than-spotlighted bowl. Of course, that's not the case – a win could put West Virginia into a better bowl, and an 8-4 regular season record is clearly better than 7-5. But in a season that won't end in a New Year's Day bowl, will players be motivated? It's Senior Day, of course, and that may help, but it's difficult not to wonder how a team in a new situation is going to react.

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