Preview: WVU - USF

The toughest Big East road challenge to date looms as West Virginia faces South Florida at 8 p.m. Friday. Game Scorecard
Fri 10/30/09 8:00 PM

Tampa, FL

Raymond James Stadium
Record: 6-1
BCS: 21
Last Game
UConn W 28-24
Radio: MSN
Record: 5-2
Last Game
Pittsburgh L 41-14
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2009 Schedule

Series: Tied 2-2
First Meeting: 2005
Last Meeting: 2008
Press Release
Season Stats
2009 Schedule

Click for Tampa, Florida Forecast


WVU – Scooter Berry (Shoulder and Discipline), Out – Indefinite Suspension; Reed Williams (Shoulder), Probable – Game-time Decision; Bradley Starks (Back), Probable.

USF – QB Matt Grothe (ACL Tear), Out for Season; K Maikon Bonani (Broken Vertebra), Out for Season; RB Jamar Taylor (Knee), Out Indefinitely; Aston Samuels (Undisclosed), Questionable.


WVU Offense vs. USF defense

South Florida's pass defense appears solid on the stat sheet, allowing a Big East-best 182.1 yards per game passing. But the Bulls have been exploited for an average of 256 aerial yards by Florida State, Syracuse, Cincinnati and Pitt. Wofford asnd Western Kentucky amassed less than 100 yards each in losses to USF, significantly skewing the numbers. UC threw well, even with a reserve quarterback, in its Oct. 15 34-17 win in Tampa. First-year USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey's crew followed that with a 41-14 beating by Pitt in which the Panthers set-up several long passes with a decent run game and play action. Receivers were wide open on many routes, and it appeared as though the Bulls gave up by the break.

West Virginia has the playmakers to have similar success. The question is execution. Can South Florida rebound, mentally and physically, enough to contain Jock Sanders and Noel Devine in the short game and Alric Arnett downfield? Is this indeed another late-season swoon for Jim Leavitt's program, or was the Pitt defeat and its magnitude more a Cincinnati hangover? WVU seems to get South Florida's finest defensive effort, though that was largely because the previous Mountaineer coaching staff was a predictable as the tides. Jeff Mullen will challenge all areas of the field, and this is likely the game in which fans will note the extreme differences in how the previous administration approached USF versus how the current one does. Head coach Bill Stewart has already noted he'll use all available weapons, and Leavitt has publicly noted he'd rather face Rich Rodriguez than Stewart.

The primary concern, both because of sheer USF talent and WVU's inability to pick up some blitz overloads against Connecticut, is dealing with ends George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul. Selvie was a surefire NFL first-rounder last season and chose to stay in Tampa another year. The 6-4, 245-pound senior has 27 tackles, 6.5 for loss, with three sacks. His lack of total tackles is a producgt of teams avoiding rushing to his side. The problem for foes is that if one runs away from Selvie, they run toward Pierre-Paul. The junior, 6-6, 265 pounds, is a massive project for West Virginia tackle Selvish Capers. Pierre-Paul has 23 tackles, 9.5 for loss, with a pick and five quarterback hurries. His height, reach and athleticism will easily match that of Capers, who has NFL talent himself. This is a major key on this side of the ball, and it'll partially determine how much time quarterback Jarrett Brown has and if Noel Devine will be able to operate outside at all. Selvie is the blindside rusher, so Brown will be able to see Pierre-Paul. But with sophomore Don Barclay battling Selvie, that might not be a comfort. It isn't that the Mountaineer exterior line can't solidly handle the ends. But this is certain the most difficult outside rushing assignment of the season.

Misdirection and allowance of an over-rush will be a key, and it was used brilliantly by UC head coach Brian Kelley (ironically against his old defensive coordinator, who he let go after the 2008 season) when his backup quarterback was inserted. With Selvie and Pierre-Paul getting a good upfield push and – Kelly assumed correctly – coming hard after the reserve on his first snap, the Bearcat staff called a quarterback keeper up the middle. Selvie and Pierre-Paul ran past the play, and Cincinnati busted up the middle for a long touchdown run. WVU will need some of that, and for the interior line to handle tackles Aaron Harris and Terrell McClain, who are very good players. The linebackers, a junior and two seniors, rank one, three and five in team total tackles. Middle ‘backer Kion Wilson shows 49 stops. Sabbath Joseph has manned the run well and has three forced fumbles. WVU must be aware of the junior's ability to strip the ball and have better security. Weakside player Chris Robinson is quick of the snap and will come on blitzes more often than his counterparts. He has blocked a kick this year.

Perhaps the most amazing stat is that teams, despite the raw ability of the USF front seven, have run for 132 yards per game. That's last in the league going into as contest with the Big East's best statistical rushing team at 191.7 yards per. The Bulls will have to watch Brown as well as Devine, and be able to stop the short yardage situations against Ryan Clarke. South Florida relies on big plays (sacks, turnovers, etc.) more than sheer consistency. West Virginia must avoid losses and floated downfield throws – which plagued it in a lone loss and the closest win of the year. The line must also perform better to give Brown and the receivers a chanced to challenge corners Quenton Washington and Jerome Murphy. The latter has covered well and is third on the team in tackles (not a great sign) with five pass break-ups and two interceptions. Washington isn't as productive. The strong safeties are seniors, and, finally, Nate Allen is an upperclassman. The Mountaineers should have success picking spots against the backfield, but it must be able to both run and pass to win.

By The Numbers
West Virginia South Florida
Scoring Offense 31.3 ppg Scoring Defense 17.4 ppg
Rushing Offense 191.7 ypg Rushing Defense 132.4 ypg
Passing Offense 229.1 ypg Passing Defense 182.1 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia

WVU Defense vs. USF Offense

The Mountaineers must deal with their most mobile opposing quarterback of the season. With the injury to Matt Grothe, redshirt freshman B.J. Daniels has assumed control of an offense averaging 31 points per game. Daniels has more than 1,200 yards of total offense in seven games and has completed 51 of 96 passes with six picks and seven scores. He has an efficiency rating of 140.29. He also runs for almost 60 yards per game and has four touchdowns. Containment and a slow down of the Bulls running game will be key. If Daniels is allowed to pass when he wants to and can keep WVU's odd stack set and linebackers under control via a solid ground game, it will be much more advantageous regarding yardage situations. USF utilizes three backs. Moise Plancher (46 ypg) is a kind of ripper, a slasher-style back with medium burst and speed and a knack for solid three to four year gains. Lindsey Lamar (26 ypg) is the speedster, though he has just 31 carries and doesn't have the big-play ability of Devine. The premier back is Mike Ford, who averages 30 yards per game and is used at the goal line.

It has worked well, but USF hasn't played a run defense that has continually shut down backs like West Virginia. The Mountaineers rank ninth nationally at 86.3 yards per game, and come off a game in which they controlled a dangerous Andre Dixon. WVU is expected to be without Scooter Berry for a second straight game, but Josh Taylor has performed well in his stead. The sophomore tackle will be matched against sizeable offensive lineman Jake Sims. The junior, 6-5, 285 lbs., has solid footwork and uses his hands well. He won't allow Taylor to get into him, and this is likely one match-up where USF's line won't need a double-team. That will free the guard to work ob Chris Neild, who is quickly becoming the line's major force. Neild will loom large in the ground game, especially if he can draw another player while working on center Sampson Genus. Genus is 314 pounds at 6-1 and plays low. But Neild is similarly-sized; this is the de facto match on the inside.

Even if the running game isn't as productive as the Bulls wish, Daniels' scrambling could allow him to keep downfield possibilities and pick up yardage when the Mountaineers have defended a play well. Wideout Carlton Mitchell is a downfield threat. He has 23 catches for 410 yards and three touchdowns. At 6-4 and 212 pounds, Mitchell has the size to battle for deep balls and the speed to take crossing routes for scores. Jessie Hester has played in just four games, but has the skills to be very productive as the season progresses. A.J. Love is the mid-range receiver; he has 11 catches for 149 yards. Dontavious Bogan is tied with Mitchell for a team-best three receiving touchdowns. He averages 16.7 yards per catch, just a yard less than Mitchell, but has 10 fewer grabs. West Virginia must stay with the USF wideouts and hope the front six-plus can get pressure and keep Daniels in the pocket. South Florida has often seemed more explosive than it actually is, and that might be the same case this year. After rolling up huge numbers versus lesser foes, Pitt held the Bulls to 14 points and UC limited them to 17. West Virginia might not match those numbers, but it shouldn't get torched, either.

By The Numbers
West Virginia South Florida
Scoring Defense 21.3 ppg Scoring Offense 30.9 ppg
Rushing Defense 86.3 ypg Rushing Offense 178.3 ypg
Passing Defense 236.3 ypg Passing Offense 201.7 ypg

Advantage: Even

WVU Special Teams vs. USF Special Teams

The Mountaineers have an edge in the punting game, and have better return men in the slots. Placekicker Tyler Bitancurt has missed just once all season (against UConn), while USF's pair of kickers have missed seven of 11. And where most teams have enough in the kickoff return game to hurt WVU's horrid coverage, South Florida is allowing near the same yardage as the Mountaineers. This is a match-up where neither team is exceptional, but one (USF) is more mundane than another. Give this to the Mountaineers, and hope that the kickoff coverage team can limit the Bulls enough to force routine 70-plus yard drives. If Bitancurt comes through and there are no damaging blocks, etc., it should be enough to not lose the game.

By The Numbers
West Virginia South Florida
Net Punting 38.6 yards Net Punting 36.8 yards per punt
KO Returns 24.2 yards per return KO Returns 21.4 yards per return
Punt Returns 12.3 yards per return Punt Returns 7.2 yards per return

Advantage: West Virginia


On Offense: Selvish Capers

On Defense: Chris Neild


West Virginia has better balance now than it did in its two losses to South Florida. The Bulls defense doesn't have the raw talent it once did, and it isn't executing effectively against squads with a similar run-pass slate as that of WVU. The Mountaineers can't match Cincinnati's downfield passing game, but have better big-play potential in the run game. Pitt crushed the Bulls via the air, and that with a base running game and a quarterback that isn't a rushing threat. The West Virginia offense, even hurting itself, has yet to score less than 24 points in a game. The defense, outside of the offensive debacle, has yet to allow more than that much. If the Mountaineers don't turn the ball over, they should be able to punch in three to four times. The latter will be enough.

WVU – 27 USF - 20

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