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USF Bulls struggle to contain West Virginia Mountaineers' short passing game

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia turned to senior WR Jock Sanders early and often Thursday night, and the St. Petersburg Catholic High grad was part of a hook-and-lateral play that produced a key touchdown before halftime during the Mountaineers' 20-6 win.

Sanders, who had eight catches for 33 yards in the first half, mostly on quick screen passes, got the ball on West Virginia's first two plays. In the first half, QB Geno Smith was content to throw accurate, short passes, allowing his receivers' speed to do the rest.

After USF's B.J. Daniels threw an interception late in the half, West Virginia used a variation on the short pass to score a touchdown going into halftime. Smith threw a screen to Sanders, who quickly lateraled the ball to RB Noel Devine, who sped to the pylon for a 7-yard touchdown. Officially, Sanders was credited with a catch and a 4-yard loss, and Devine was given 11 receiving yards and no catch.

Sanders finished with 10 catches for 31 yards. According to West Virginia statisticians, that's the fewest receiving yards in school history for a player with at least 10 catches in a game.

However, Sanders did extend his personal streak to 34 consecutive games with at least one catch. That's tied for the fourth-longest streak in Big East history. The record — 47 games by Rutgers' Brian Leonard in 2003-06 — is beyond Sanders' reach, but West Virginia's school record of 40 (Khori Ivy, 1997-2000) is still a possibility. Sanders also moved into second place on the Mountaineers' career receptions list, passing Shawn Foreman (169, 1995-98) and moving closer to David Saunders' career mark (191).

RECORD TIED: Senior WR Dontavia Bogan matched a USF record with 11 catches — the most for any Bulls player since DeAndrew Rubin had 11 against Pittsburgh in a 2001 win. Bogan finished with 98 yards, but his longest catch was just 15 yards, 3 yards under his average per catch entering the game.

"I thought Bogan played a fantastic game," USF coach Skip Holtz said. "You look at it, and everything was underneath, ball control, trying to make some first downs."

STEPPING UP: Redshirt freshman LB DeDe Lattimore had the best game of his young career, leading the Bulls with 11 tackles and getting his first career sack, one of two tackles for losses. The Bulls held West Virginia's running game to 79 yards on 33 carries, limiting star RB Noel Devine to 29 yards on 13 carries.

STILL SIDELINED: Two key sophomores for USF — RB Demetris Murray and WR Sterling Griffin — were optimistic about playing despite lingering ankle injuries that have sidelined them. Neither was listed on the injury report, but neither made it onto the field. Murray, who sat out the Florida Atlantic game Oct. 2 and was limited to four carries against Syracuse last week, was the team's No. 2 rusher entering the game. Griffin has yet to play this season since dislocating his ankle in a workout this summer.

COOLER THAN TAMPA: With a game-time temperature of just 53 degrees, most USF players wore thermal-sleeved apparel under their jerseys, and the Bulls invested in four heated benches and space heaters on the sideline to help offset the cold weather. The last time the Bulls played in Morgantown, it was 29 degrees and snowing, the coldest temperature ever for a Bulls game.

AT IT AGAIN: Sophomore Lindsey Lamar, who had a 94-yard touchdown on a kickoff return against Syracuse, was honored as this week's special teams captain, and he showed the same big-play potential in the second quarter, returning a kickoff 55 yards.

USF Bulls struggle to contain West Virginia Mountaineers' short passing game 10/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 15, 2010 1:30am]

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