Mountaineers 'Bulled' Over in Tampa

Mountaineers 'Bulled' Over in Tampa

The following is a live journal composed during the West Virginia/South Florida game. All times listed are Pacific Standard Time.


Author's E-mail: aaron.calhoun451@gmail.com

PREGAME

4:39 – Uh oh. We have an Ozzie Guillen sighting; somebody find a muzzle for the White Sox manager before there's another officiating snafu!

5:01 – Kickoff draws near; the Mountaineers are hoping it won't be the second day in a row a ranked team with "Virginia" in their name is upset.

FIRST QUARTER

5:03 – South Florida's defense is a major key to having a chance and they give up a big completion on the first play from scrimmage, then manage to tackle star running back Noel Devine for a loss on the next play. Devine will be key even if he doesn't have a big stat night; the Bulls will have to honor him as a threat, which should open up the passing game (as it did on that first play).

5:06 – Quarterback Jarrett Brown is no Pat White, but he has rushed for more yards than Devine on this drive so far; he has also yet to throw an incompletion. If Devine can't get going, he will have to continue to play at this level.

5:12 – Brown finishes off his Pat White impersonation by finding the end zone. Despite a lack of running lanes for Devine, that drive was just what the Mountaineers needed to start the game; they kept the Bulls defense on the field for over five minutes and moved the ball at will without the help of their star. South Florida cannot afford to have their defense get tired because their offense has only scored a combined 31 points in the last two games.

7-0 West Virginia

5:20 – South Florida ties the game, but it only took them two minutes and they chose to gamble on 4th and 1 near midfield on their very first possession (which they, of course, managed to convert); no sane football person will ever complain about scoring a touchdown, but the Bulls' defense—after this short breather—needs a better showing on this next West Virginia possession to make the equalizer truly worth it.

Tied 7-7

5:27 – Even Pat White wouldn't have stood a chance had he taken that route; it wasn't exactly a dominant defensive stand by the Bulls—that illegal block in the back on the Mountaineers put them in a hole to begin with—but they'll definitely take it.

5:32 – South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels accounted for nearly all of the offense on that scoring drive—another quick one at that—with some Pat White-esque runs of his own.

10-7 South Florida

5:38 – West Virginia did have to punt (and it was a great one at that), but they found a way to get Devine some positive yardage on that drive with the two screens; it doesn't matter how he gets the yards, but that he gets them at all and helps to keep the Bulls' D on their toes.

5:41 – Well, they say to play every down, and West Virginia gets a safety on the last, untimed play of the first quarter—thanks to that great punt by Scott Kozlowski and an illegal block on the Bulls—to edge within one. South Florida had played a great first fifteen minutes, but they gave up the equivalent of a goal in stoppage time in soccer; what an odd ending to a quarter.

5:42 – END FIRST QUARTER. SOUTH FLORIDA LEADS 10-9.

SECOND QUARTER

5:48 – The passes to Devine are still working, but Brown put his subsequent pass in a dangerous spot and the Mountaineers lost a great chance at retaking the lead. Right now, this game has little to do with talent matchups; it's all about the momentum at this stage and South Florida has found ways to hold onto it ever since that long touchdown pass that got them on the board.

5:51 – Just throw the flippin' ball away! It makes no sense for a quarterback, who has been flushed from the pocket, to run out of bounds for a loss in lieu of chucking the ball into the stands. Daniels may be a freshman QB in college, but even a freshman QB in high school should know better than that.

5:56 – In this case, wide receiver Sterling Griffin waited too long to drop the pass; after hauling it in for first down yardage on 3rd and 7, he put it on the deck and further proved that he and his brethren can't hang on to the ball. Do these experienced receivers really expect their freshman signal caller to do everything by himself?

5:59 – The Bulls caught a break with that fumble call being overturned; Griffin corralled the ball in his hands, then tucked it into his body—clear possession. A previous comment is hereby retracted—they should un-muzzle Ozzie after that call.

6:04 – Well, you can't always trust receivers—especially in this game—but you can always trust your family. Daniels and wide receiver Carlton Mitchell are cousins and the latter has hauled in both of South Florida's touchdowns on deep passes.
6:05 – What is wrong with this crew? There was nothing but green between Mitchell's feet and the sideline. Where's Ozzie?!

6:08 – South Florida finishes off the drive anyway, but it's slightly saddening that wide receiver A.J. Love will get that touchdown in the stat book instead of Mitchell—only slightly, though, because Mitchell probably won't care as long as his team keeps playing the way they have been.

17-9 South Florida

6:17 – Devine is finally gaining traction in the rushing department; these types of drives—mixing plays, spreading the ball around, and maximizing the production of your weapons—are what West Virginia need to win this game.

6:20 – The Mountaineers have to settle for a field goal after five straight incompletions; they had been primarily running the ball until that point and, for some reason, suddenly got away from that. Additionally, South Florida's two defensive end studs—George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul—each broke up a pass attempt at the line of scrimmage; West Virginia needs to find a way to contain those two because, in addition to those two plays, they have been the primary reason that Devine hasn't broken off any game-changing runs.

17-12 South Florida

6:24 – West Virginia's deep coverage has been terrible in the first half; that's the third long pass they've given up so far. Those types of passes have been the most reliable source of offense for South Florida and the obvious reason why they are ahead right now.

6:32 – Big stop for West Virginia. The Mountaineers gave up another long ball but hung tough, only surrendered three points, and kept their team within one score.

6:37 – HALFTIME. SOUTH FLORIDA LEADS 20-12.

6:38 – South Florida has come to play tonight; they haven't looked pretty, but they're getting the job done through the air on offense and refusing to break on defense after that first West Virginia drive. Speaking of that first drive, the Mountaineers need some akin to it in the second half if they want to avoid the upset; they are fully capable of doing so considering how much more balanced they have been on offense. If Brown can keep hitting passes, and Devine continues to find yards by any means, and the defense stops giving up the deep ball, then West Virginia can stage a comeback.

THIRD QUARTER

7:11 – West Virginia's first drive of the second half ends like their first one in the first half with Brown running for a touchdown. This drive was even better, though, because Devine was more elusive on the ground and speedy 5'7" wide receiver—and aptly named—Jock Sanders finally got involved.

7:13 – Settling for seven is probably the right call at this point in the game, but it's entirely contingent on West Virginia being able to score more points. If the South Florida defense settles down again like they did in the first half, than that decision will loom far larger.

20-19 South Florida

7:20 – So, apparently the second long pass to Mitchell in the first half that should have been a touchdown was non-reviewable according to a Big East official. It should not have come to that, though, because Mitchell never stepped out of bounds. That play had little effect on the game itself because the Bulls got a touchdown anyway, but in the grand scheme of things, it's another highly questionable call in a season full of them.

7:25 – South Florida answers and they do it without a completed long bomb; if they can start sustaining drives, then West Virginia is going to have to go for two if they get another chance because the defense cannot be trusted to get a stop at this point.

27-19 South Florida

7:33 – After the South Florida receiving corps had trouble holding onto the ball in the first half, West Virginia wide receiver Alric Arnett bobbles the ball on a third down play where he was wide open beyond the sticks. The Mountaineers have had trouble finishing drives that have begun with promise all night and that is why they are behind.

7:39 – END THIRD QUARTER. SOUTH FLORIDA LEADS 27-19.

7:44 – It was only a couple inches, but that was a huge fourth down conversion by South Florida; a turnover there would have given West Virginia new life. You have to admire the guts of head coach Jim Leavitt; that's twice that he's gambled on fourth down near midfield. It's apparent that he wants to go for the kill and put this game farther out of reach for the Mountaineers.

7:49 – Daniels, in tune with his trend of making poorer decisions as he gets closer to the end zone, only misses out on throwing a pick-six because West Virginia safety Sidney Glover dropped the pass on a route he read perfectly. The Bulls have to settle for a field goal; even if they hold on to win, Daniels' overall play in the red zone will be cause for alarm.

30-19 South Florida

8:01 – Daniels tries to call a timeout when South Florida had already burned all of them; the freshman has been brilliant in spurts, but these small mistakes are beginning to add up thus enabling West Virginia to hang around.

8:06 – That is a catch by West Virginia wide receiver Bradley Starks (and a spectacular one at that); it will be reviewed, but the third time has to be a charm for this crew. Just in case, though, they should start warming up Ozzie's mouth.

8:09 – The call stands and Ozzie can rest easy.

8:14 – And the penalties begin for the Mountaineers; it's fitting when you consider they've shot themselves in the foot in, seemingly, every other fashion in this part of the field all game.

8:16 – Unreal. On 4th and 28, 6'8" wide receiver Wes Lyons squirts free beyond the sticks, only to let the ball go right through his hands. Someone should have told the Mountaineers that they didn't have to get all twenty-eight yards on second and third down. They could've, at least, moved back into field goal range and got it back to a one-score game.

8:22 – Daniels breaks free for a twenty-six yard gain that all but seals the game; give the young man credit, he may have been spotty on occasions, but he made plays when he had to.

8:26 – GAME OVER. SOUTH FLORIDA WINS 30-19.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This victory for South Florida was made into a family affair due to the play of Daniels and Mitchell. Yes, mistakes were made by the Bulls, but they were mistakes that the Bulls were able to overcome because they never let West Virginia gain full control of the momentum. The defense, led by Selvie and Pierre-Paul, bent at times and even surrendered touchdowns on initial Mountaineer drives in both halves, but they never broke and continually stymied any hopes of a comeback with numerous stops in their territory.

West Virginia, much like Virginia Tech the day before, let a road conference game get away from them. Besides the aforementioned touchdown drives, the offense never seemed to get in any form of elongated rhythm and Brown, even with his Pat White-lite legs, was harassed all night. The bulk of the blame, though, has to go to the defense, who kept giving up big plays at the worst possible time. South Florida's offensive attack was pass-heavy, but the Mountaineer secondary still couldn't help the unit get off the field.

After a brilliant first drive that left one to wonder whether it would be the Bulls' defense that would run out of steam to snort, it was the Mountaineers' D that failed to reach their peak.

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