Final thoughts on USF-West Virginia
Finally got around to watching the USF-West Virginia game on tape, so I have a few more observations on a huge 30-19 win for the Bulls ...
-- I think linebacker Sabbath Joseph deserves credit for two underappreciated assists – first and foremost, recovering Kion Wilson’s fumble after Wilson had intercepted a Jarrett Brown pass deep in USF territory. If Wilson loses that fumble, West Virginia has a first down inside the USF 15, down 10-9.
Joseph also helped on West Virginia's last drive, astutely anticipating a shovel pass to Noel Devine and tipping off linebacker Chris Robinson, who was in the right place to drop Devine for a 3-yard loss, setting up a third and 23 from the 38. Robinson's hit effectively took West Virginia out of field goal range, forcing them to eventually go for it on fourth and 28, making it an easy final stop for the Bulls' defense.
-- As well as USF played offensively, the Bulls overcame some significant drops, especially early. Carlton Mitchell dropped B.J. Daniels’ first pass (making up for it with a long TD three plays later) and tight end Ben Busbee had a drop on the next drive that forced USF to settle for a field goal. ... Unrelated, but if you looked closely, you saw some interesting cameos, like Robinson playing defensive end and Jason Pierre-Paul at defensive tackle.
-- No, Mitchell didn’t step out of bounds at the 9-yard line on what would have been a 78-yard touchdown from Daniels. Just a bad call – TV replays clearly showed green between his foot and the sideline – USF scored three plays later, so it’s largely academic. And speaking of missed calls, Sterling Griffin really looked like he got two feet down before the ball was knocked loose – not sure how a replay official overturned the original ruling of a fumble. Between the two, USF turned out just fine on balance.
-- I think of all the skills Daniels can exhibit right now, patience is one of the most impressive. His touchdown to A.J. Love, as he scrambled to the right, was timed just perfectly – he waited until the last defender bit on him running and left Love wide-open, literally standing alone in the end zone. Knowing when to throw on the run isn’t an easy thing to pick up, but Daniels did it well there.
-- Turns out the tweaks on the offensive line were a function of Jake Sims and Chaz Hine being limited by the flu last week. Both wound up playing during the game, but it’ll be interesting to see who the starting line is at Rutgers. Tons of other injuries we'll check up on -- Leavitt said Monday that cornerback Tyson Butler is the one they're concerned most about, but Mitchell's high ankle sprain could take away the Bulls' top playmaker for next week's game at Rutgers.
-- I think West Virginia’s coaches made the same mistake as in 2007 by underutilizing a talented freshman. Just as Noel Devine got just four touches two years ago, Tavon Austin got just one carry (for 19 yards) and one reception (for 13), along with two kickoff returns. With that speed, he could be a special player down the road.
-- The last play of the game, where B.J. Daniels ran back 10 yards and took a knee? It didn’t put Daniels under 100 yards because it was recorded as a team loss, much as a spike to kill the clock late in a half isn’t credited as an incompletion to the quarterback. It did, however, register as a failed fourth-down conversion, dropping USF from 8-for-9 to 8-for-10 on the season, keeping them from leading the nation in that category.
The I-A leader is UCF, which went a ridiculous 5-for-6 on fourth downs in rallying to a 21-20 win against Marshall on Sunday. The Knights (5-3) won’t likely win their next two, against Texas and Houston, but with a win against Tulane (2-6) or UAB (3-5) they’ll be bowl-eligible, and a likely match for the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Really don’t think they’ll play USF there – if the Bulls are left to the bottom tier of St. Pete, Birmingham and Toronto, I think they’ll go to Alabama, with Rutgers a more likely match for Tropicana Field.