West Virginia-South Florida Preview
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen insists the Mountaineers are
focused on this week’s trip to Florida, not a possible one in
No. 22 West Virginia (8-3, 4-2 Big East) must beat South Florida
on Thursday night, then get a win by Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2) over
Connecticut on Saturday to forge a three-way tie for the conference
title with Louisville (7-5, 5-2).
If that happens, the berth would go to the team with the highest
ranking in the final BCS standings next Sunday. West Virginia is
“What this team is going to be remembered for is what happens
this week at South Florida,” Holgorsen said Monday. “Right now this
is the only game on the schedule, and we’ve got to give it
everything we’ve got.”
If West Virginia loses and Cincinnati wins, the Bearcats would
earn the BCS bid. A Cincinnati loss would give the BCS bid to the
Cardinals no matter what West Virginia does because Louisville beat
the Mountaineers during the regular season.
The Atlantic Coast Conference championship game between Clemson
and Virginia Tech will determine one representative in the Jan. 4
Orange Bowl. There’s been reports the winner will face the Big East
Up until Thursday, Holgorsen only wants his players’ attention
exclusively on the Bulls (5-6, 1-5), saying he needs “total effort,
total focus and total energy.”
“That’s the only thing that counts,” he said. “Once that’s over,
it’s out of our control. I’m sure everybody is going to be glued to
the TV set if we’re able to get a victory Thursday night. But if we
can’t take care of business and get the victory Thursday night, it
really doesn’t matter what happens on Saturday.”
West Virginia has been in must-win mode ever since losing to
Louisville at home on Nov. 5. A win at Cincinnati on Nov. 12 was
followed by a 21-20 comeback win over Pittsburgh on Friday night to
set up the final week of drama.
“The closer you get to winning a conference championship, the
bigger the game gets,” Holgorsen said.
Things weren’t looking good after the Mountaineers fell behind
Pittsburgh 20-7 early in the third quarter of the Backyard
That’s when 348-pound redshirt freshman Quinton Spain and
300-pound sophomore Curtis Feigt were inserted on the offensive
line and West Virginia responded with two touchdown drives.
On defense, the Mountaineers registered six of their 10 sacks of
Tino Sunseri in the fourth quarter and held Pittsburgh out of the
end zone after halftime.
Spain and Feigt will start against South Florida, which has lost
six of its last seven games but can become bowl eligible with a
“It’s a one-game season and we’ve got to make sure we come out
focused and ready to play,” West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith
said. “We can’t have any letdowns.”
The Mountaineers easily handled South Florida in last season’s
matchup, but they’ve lost the last two meetings as the visitor. The
Bulls, though, have dropped three straight at home and lost 34-24
to Louisville on Friday.
South Florida is in danger of missing a bowl game for the first
time since 2004.
“I’m the head coach, that’s where it starts and that’s where it
stops,” said Skip Holtz, whose Bulls opened with a victory at Notre
Dame en route to a 4-0 start. “I’ve got to do a better job of
holding our staff to a higher standard and our staff has to do a
better job of holding our players to a higher standard.”
The Bulls played the entire game Friday with sophomore
quarterback Bobby Eveld, a former walk-on, because of a shoulder
injury to starter B.J. Daniels.
Eveld was 20 of 35 for 210 yards with a touchdown and an
interception, helping South Florida take a two-touchdown lead late
in the first half before the Cardinals came back.
The Bulls’ last five losses have been by a total of 25
“I take it personal,” Holtz said. “We’ve come close, but we
haven’t done a good enough job.”
Smith went 24 of 31 for 219 yards and threw two TD passes in
last season’s 20-6 win over South Florida. The junior leads the Big
East with 3,741 passing yards and 25 touchdowns while being picked
off only five times.
“This week we certainly have probably arguably one of our
biggest challenges,” Holtz said. “… West Virginia comes in as a
very explosive offensive football team.”