Holtz, USF staff have history with W. Virginia
First-year coach Skip Holtz and his staff don't have much of a history with most of the Big East teams they'll face this season, but Thursday's opponent, West Virginia, is an opponent he knows well.
Holtz played WVU in each of his five seasons at East Carolina, and one of his biggest wins in Greenville came in 2008, when his Pirates knocked off the No. 8 Mountaineers 24-3 in what was Bill Stewart's second game as head coach.
"They just waxed us tremendously down there at East Carolina my opening season," Stewart said Monday. "We got them back up here in '09, but he's a great coach. Very solid, has a great coaching staff, friends of mine in the business for a long time. Steve Shankweiler, Peter Vaas, I can go on and on. Mark Snyder, great guys, great coaching staff. Steve Bird and I worked together here (2001-04). I really respect these guys. Believe me, he'll have them ready to play."
Holtz lost to West Virginia by a 20-15 score in 2005, and had a shot at another upset last season, as ECU jumped out to a 10-0 lead early and trailed just 21-20 at the half, ultimately losing 35-20. In his last two trips to Morgantown, Holtz's teams have allowed West Virginia to amass more than 500 yards of total offense.
Snyder, USF's defensive coordinator, played West Virginia in each of the last four seasons while he was head coach at Marshall. And while he wasn't able to beat the Mountaineers, he gave them a scare or two, leading in the second half before losing in 2007 (48-23) and 2009 (24-7). His Marshall team had a 10-7 lead in the fourth quarter in Morgantown last year.
Snyder said he knows from experience that West Virginia's speed all over the field presents a significant challenge -- like what the Bulls faced in Gainesville a month ago, but perhaps more trouble than that.
"They have multiple weapons. It's not just the back or the wideout or the slot. It's a combination of all of them," he said. "We haven't seen danger like this since Florida, and by how they line them up, this is maybe a little bit more dangerous."
THIS AND THAT: Holtz said that running back Demetris Murray and receiver Sterling Griffin continue to be limited by lingering ankle injuries. He said if Murray isn't ready to go Thursday, he'll look to true freshman Marcus Shaw and redshirt freshman Bradley Battles, who have seen only limited action at running back since the season opener. ... Left tackle Jamar Bass, who missed the Syracuse game with his own ankle injury, was working with the first-team line in Monday's practice. ... Snyder said he hopes to have junior safety Jerrell Young back Thursday, which would allow him to move senior Mistral Raymond back to cornerback.