Very seldom, if ever, does the WVU defense receiver credit for a victory but, tonight that will change because the Mountaineer defense held South Florida to a meager two field goals in route to a 20-6 win in their Big East opener. Taking nothing away from super sophomore Gino Smith, who completed 24 0f 31 passes for 219 yards, and two scores, but indeed tonight the nation witnessed a dominant defensive effort by the 25th ranked Mountaineers. While I was over 250 miles away from both locker rooms following tonight’s game, I can only imagine that WVU Head Coach, Bill Stewart, gave his game ball to the entire defense. Meanwhile, South Florida Head Coach, Skip Holtz, told his team (especially the offense) to learn how to hold on to the game ball.
From the opening kickoff to the final whistle WVU displayed great defensive speed by virtually shutting down any and everything South Florida attempted to do offensively. I do not recall South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels completing a pass of more than 11 yards all game long. Actually, South Florida did not convert a third down until the third quarter and even when USF finally converted on third down, they really had to hustle for it. To bring the whole third down conversion point home, at last count, I had USF converting 1 of 9 third down conversions (11% completion rate).
Of course, everyone playing offense in white (USF) felt the brunt of the Mountaineer’s stingy defense but none more than Daniels. Daniels was sacked four times and intercepted three times by the Blue and Gold. The most devastating of the three interceptions was the first one which came with about 40 seconds remaining in the first quarter. After Daniels made an ill advised throw on the run, Robert Sands stepped in front of a USF receiver and ran the ball back to the USF 8 yard line. On the very next play, Smith would throw his second and final touchdown pass of the evening, an 8 yard hook (to Jock Sanders), that would be lateraled to Noel Devine, who then dashed into the end zone.
Up next for the now 5-1 overall, 1-0 in the Big East Mountaineers are the 4-1 overall, 1-0 in the Big East Syracuse Orange (you don’t know how bad I wanted to type Orangemen). Go ahead and scratch your eyes/re-read the previous sentence because I know it’s hard to believe Syracuse is actually off to a good start. According to West Virginia’s biggest (and probably only) Syracuse fan, my older brother Marcus, the Orange defense is much better than it has been in recent years. I’ll investigate my brother’s claims and get back with you next week before the Orange visit the 25th (WVU will probably move up after this weekend) Mountaineers next Saturday.
About the Author
Written by Jason Lee
Born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia, I've been a sports fan probably since I was about 9 years old! A 2002 graduate of Mount Union College (Alliance, OH), I've had the opportunity to cover some great high school football on the radio in both Ohio (working with WHBC in Canton) and in West Virginia (I currently work with Bristol Broadcasting in Charleston). I also keep an on-line journal/blogs on my own website.