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Youthful Bulls might be just getting started

If there's anything as impressive as USF's 24-19 upset of No. 7 West Virginia on Saturday, it might be the youth with which the Bulls have won their eight games this season.

"We're just so doggone young," said coach Jim Leavitt, whose team ended the Mountaineers' eight-game home winning streak by shutting down the nation's No. 2 rushing offense. "We've got so many freshmen out there and sophomores. We really don't have that many juniors and seniors. I think they're just trying to figure it out right now."

USF's seniors accounted for just 75 total starts in 12 games this season, down from 105 last season, and many of Saturday's biggest plays came from Bulls finishing their first season of college football.

Quarterback Matt Grothe, who passed for 279 yards and accounted for two touchdowns, is likely the Big East freshman of the year, ranking 12th in the nation in total offense. Saturday's starting offensive line, which held West Virginia to two sacks, will return intact, as will USF's top running backs and all but two receivers.

Considering that linebacker Patrick St. Louis spent three quarters of Saturday's game on the sideline with a sprained ankle, the defense that so capably stopped the Mountaineers had just two seniors on the field: linebacker Stephen Nicholas and safety Jeremy Burnett.

When USF struck for its first defensive touchdown of the season, it was one redshirt freshman, linebacker Chris Robinson, who forced a Pat White fumble, and another, defensive end George Selvie, who scooped it and ran 9 yards.

The only position with a real lack of experience should be linebacker, where junior Ben Moffitt returns as an anchor in the middle.

THIS AND THAT: Selvie was named national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Foundation. He had eight tackles, 3.5 for a loss, and the TD. ... USF will not practice this week with coaches on the road recruiting. ... The Bulls got four votes in this week's Associated Press Top 25, tying Penn State for the fourth most among teams not in the top 25. ... The Bulls' most likely postseason destination remains the Papajohns.com Bowl on Dec. 23 in Birmingham, Ala., where they would face a Conference USA team, likely East Carolina (7-5) or Tulsa (8-4). ... USF's defense was especially tough Saturday on first-down plays; take away West Virginia's 57-yard reverse to Darius Reynaud, and the Mountaineers totaled 28 yards on their first 19 first-down plays.

Greg Auman can be reached at (813) 226-3346 or at auman@sptimes. com. Check out his USF blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.

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