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

currently 23rd.

“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.”