Friday Football

Friday Football

Game Preview for West Virginia vs So Florida

GAME NOTES: In what could be considered the biggest game in school history, the 18th-ranked South Florida Bulls host the fifth-ranked West Virginia in the Big East opener for both teams this Friday. The Bulls enter the contest with a good deal of confidence thanks to a perfect 3-0 start to the season. Included in those victories is a 26-23 overtime triumph at Auburn on September 8th that pushed USF into the Top 25 rankings for the first time in school history. The Bulls certainly were not content with their 23rd-ranking, as they pounded North Carolina, 37-10, last weekend to move up five spots in the polls. USF, which became a full-time member of the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2001, is the second fastest school ever to make an appearance in the Top 25 following their move to this level. As for WVU, it is no stranger to being ranked and it also comes into the contest undefeated at 4-0. The team was last in action this past weekend, when it punished East Carolina 48-7. It was the 26th win in the past 29 games by the Mountaineers, who are 12-2 against Big East opponents during that stretch. WVU and USF have split two previous meetings, but the Bulls won the most recent encounter, 24-19, in Morgantown last season.

With Steve Slaton in the backfield and Patrick White under center, the Mountaineers possess two of the most explosive players in the nation and they are the main reason why the team is averaging a hardy 47.2 ppg and an eye- popping 525.0 total ypg. The duo are the main threat in WVU's electric ground game, which is averaging a ridiculous 357.0 ypg on an impressive 7.2 yards per carry. Slaton, a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy, has been outstanding as expected, rushing for 502 yards and nine touchdowns in just four games. Slaton, who is averaging 6.0 yards per carry, is also a threat in the passing attack, catching seven balls for 115 yards and a touchdown. Speaking of passing, White has completed an efficient 71.0 percent of his throws for 617 yards, with six touchdowns and more importantly no interceptions. While White is a solid passer, he is at his best when the ball is tucked away, rushing for 286 yards and six touchdowns thus far. Last weekend, White rushed for 42 yards and two scores and Slaton paced the team with 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, as WVU rolled up 397 rushing yards in a 48-7 win over East Carolina. White also had a big game throwing the ball, completing 18-of-20 pass attempts for 181 yards and two scores. His main outlet was Darius Reynaud, who pulled down five balls for 54 yards and two scores. Reynaud tends to get overshadowed by the ground game, but make no mistake about it, he is a dangerous receiver that leads the Mountaineers with 23 catches, 335 yards and four touchdowns.

The Mountaineers have held their own on the defensive side of the ball thus far, as they are limiting their foes to just 17.0 ppg and only 273.2 total ypg. The unit has suffocated opposing ground attacks, holding teams to a mere 87.0 rushing ypg. Getting to the quarterback has also been a strength of this defense, which has recorded 16 sacks in four games. Last weekend, WVU put forth one of its best performances of the season on defense, holding East Carolina to just 160 yards of total offense. The team recorded four sacks in the win and allowed East Carolina to convert just 2-of-10 third down attempts. Mortty Ivy turned in an all-around performance in the win, as he posted six tackles to go along with a sack, forced fumble and interception. He is currently one of three players on the roster with four sacks and he also ranks second in tackles with 29 for the season.

Although not as potent of an attack as their opponent, the Bulls have fared well on offense this season, averaging 30.3 ppg and 373.3 total ypg. The offense has done a solid job both running (154.7 ypg) and passing (218.7 ypg) the ball and has committed just five turnovers. Quarterback Matt Grothe is the key to this unit's success and he is having a solid year thus far. The versatile gunslinger has completed 60.4 percent of his tosses for 652 yards, with four touchdowns against no interceptions. He is also a threat to make plays with his legs, rushing for 88 yards and another touchdown. Last weekend, Grothe completed 17-of-30 throws for 230 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing for 35 yards in a 37-10 triumph over North Carolina. As a team, the Bulls rolled up 428 yards of total offense in the win, including 194 on the ground. Benjamin Williams paced the ground game with 64 yards and a score on 15 carries. He now has 117 rushing yards on the season and that is second to Mike Ford, who has accounted for 170 yards and four touchdowns. Ford was held to just 13 rushing yards and a touchdown on six carries last weekend, but he figures to play a bigger part in a much more important game this Saturday.

On the defensive side of the ball is where the Bulls' strength resides, as they are holding their opponents to only 15.3 ppg and a just 237.7 total ypg. The team has thrived against the run (79.0 ypg), but it has also had success versus the pass (158.7 ypg). Making big plays hasn't been a problem for this unit, which has recorded 11 turnovers (seven interceptions) and 12 sacks in just three games. Last weekend, USF not only held North Carolina to a mere 164 yards of total offense, but it also forced the Tar Heels into four interceptions. The team had no problems getting into the backfield either, sacking the quarterback on four occasions. George Selvie continued his tremendous start to the season, as registered three sacks and five TFLs in the win. One of the top pass rushers in the nation, Selvie has already posted 8.5 sacks and 14.5 TFLs this season.

This may be just the first league game of the season for both programs, but there is no downplaying the importance of this contest. WVU has yet to be stopped on offense, but it hasn't faced a defense like this. USF will surely benefit from its home crowd support and if its defense is as good as the hype surrounding it, expect the Bulls to pull off the major upset in this one.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Florida 31, West Virginia 27

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Re: Friday Football

West Virginia at South Florida
VegasInsider.com

Five Big East teams are undefeated going into Week 5, but at least one of those schools will fall from the unbeaten ranks Friday, when South Florida (3-0 straight up, 2-0 against the spread) plays host to West Virginia (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) in Tampa.

Most sports books are listing the Mountaineers as seven-point favorites with a total of 55. Gamblers can back the Bulls to win outright for a plus 220 return (risk $100 to win $220).

"We know we're playing a great, great team coming in here,” USF head coach Jim Leavitt told the Associated Press. “We're excited about the challenge. We're going to have to play awfully good football to have a chance."

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Rich Rodriguez’s team is off a dominating 48-7 win over East Carolina as a 24 ½-point favorite. Pat White threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for two more as West Virginia rolled up 599 yards of total offense.

Steve Slaton, the Mountaineers’ other Heisman candidate along with White, rushed for 110 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries.

As for USF, it destroyed North Carolina 37-10 as a 13-point ‘chalk.’ The Bulls outgained UNC 428-164 in total yardage.

Matt Grothe completed 17-of-30 passes for 230 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. USF’s balanced offensive attack produced 194 rushing yards.

West Virginia will come to the Sunshine State with revenge on its mind. When the Bulls came to Morgantown last year, they pulled a shocker, beating the Mountaineers 24-19 as 21-point underdogs. However, WVU took the cash in 2005 when it collected a 28-13 win at USF as a nine-point favorite.

I talked to a handful of handicappers this week and didn’t sense that any of them had a strong opinion on this game, indicating a healthy amount of respect for both teams.

“This is a really good matchup. You have West Virginia’s explosive offense with an excellent offensive line going up against a stout front seven for USF. I think the game will be close, but the Mountaineers can turn a close game into a cover quickly, especially when they’re laying single digits.”

One player we haven’t mentioned that could be a factor is W. Va.’s true freshman RB Noel Devine, who has three rushing TDs and an eye-popping 11.1 yards per carry average.

As for that USF front seven, it is led by senior LB Ben Moffitt, who has been instrumental in limiting the Mountaineers to 21.5 points per game and 352 yards of total offense in the last two meetings. Both of those offensive outputs from WVU – or lack thereof for its standards -- are lows against Big East foes.

WVU middle linebacker Reed Williams is “questionable” with a shoulder injury. Also, nose tackle Keilen Dykes, a first-team All Big East selection in 2006, will probably be limited due to a foot strain.

As for the Bulls, they are most likely going to be without two starters on the offensive line. OG Matt Huners (knee) remains “out” and could miss another month, while center Nick Capogna is “doubtful.” Capogna injured his knee in the season-opening win over Elon, but he did return to practice Monday, albeit on a limited basis.

For the most part, USF and WVU have been beating up on cupcake opponents this year. However, both schools picked up impressive road wins in their toughest tasks to date.

South Florida went into Auburn as a 6 ½-point ‘dog and captured a 26-23 victory in overtime. The Mountaineers won a 31-14 decision at Maryland as 16-point favorites.

USF owns a 3-1 spread record in its last four games as a home underdog. As for West Virginia, it has a 13-5 ATS mark in 18 games as a road ‘chalk’ dating back to 2002.

Kick-off at Raymond James Stadium is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Eastern. ESPN2 will provide television coverage.

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Big East heavyweights collide in Tampa on Friday
September 26th, 2007

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - In what could be considered the biggest game in school history, the 18th-ranked South Florida Bulls host the fifth-ranked West Virginia in the Big East opener for both teams this Friday.

The Bulls enter the contest with a good deal of confidence thanks to a perfect 3-0 start to the season. Included in those victories is a 26-23 overtime triumph at Auburn on September 8th that pushed USF into the Top 25 rankings for the first time in school history. The Bulls certainly were not content with their 23rd-ranking, as they pounded North Carolina, 37-10, last weekend to move up five spots in the polls. USF, which became a full-time member of the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2001, is the second fastest school ever to make an appearance in the Top 25 following their move to this level.

As for WVU, it is no stranger to being ranked and it also comes into the contest undefeated at 4-0. The team was last in action this past weekend, when it punished East Carolina 48-7. It was the 26th win in the past 29 games by the Mountaineers, who are 12-2 against Big East opponents during that stretch.

WVU and USF have split two previous meetings, but the Bulls won the most recent encounter, 24-19, in Morgantown last season.

With Steve Slaton in the backfield and Patrick White under center, the Mountaineers possess two of the most explosive players in the nation and they are the main reason why the team is averaging a hardy 47.2 ppg and an eye- popping 525.0 total ypg. The duo are the main threat in WVU's electric ground game, which is averaging a ridiculous 357.0 ypg on an impressive 7.2 yards per carry. Slaton, a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy, has been outstanding as expected, rushing for 502 yards and nine touchdowns in just four games. Slaton, who is averaging 6.0 yards per carry, is also a threat in the passing attack, catching seven balls for 115 yards and a touchdown. Speaking of passing, White has completed an efficient 71.0 percent of his throws for 617 yards, with six touchdowns and more importantly no interceptions. While White is a solid passer, he is at his best when the ball is tucked away, rushing for 286 yards and six touchdowns thus far. Last weekend, White rushed for 42 yards and two scores and Slaton paced the team with 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, as WVU rolled up 397 rushing yards in a 48-7 win over East Carolina. White also had a big game throwing the ball, completing 18-of-20 pass attempts for 181 yards and two scores. His main outlet was Darius Reynaud, who pulled down five balls for 54 yards and two scores. Reynaud tends to get overshadowed by the ground game, but make no mistake about it, he is a dangerous receiver that leads the Mountaineers with 23 catches, 335 yards and four touchdowns.

The Mountaineers have held their own on the defensive side of the ball thus far, as they are limiting their foes to just 17.0 ppg and only 273.2 total ypg. The unit has suffocated opposing ground attacks, holding teams to a mere 87.0 rushing ypg. Getting to the quarterback has also been a strength of this defense, which has recorded 16 sacks in four games. Last weekend, WVU put forth one of its best performances of the season on defense, holding East Carolina to just 160 yards of total offense. The team recorded four sacks in the win and allowed East Carolina to convert just 2-of-10 third down attempts. Mortty Ivy turned in an all-around performance in the win, as he posted six tackles to go along with a sack, forced fumble and interception. He is currently one of three players on the roster with four sacks and he also ranks second in tackles with 29 for the season.

Although not as potent of an attack as their opponent, the Bulls have fared well on offense this season, averaging 30.3 ppg and 373.3 total ypg. The offense has done a solid job both running (154.7 ypg) and passing (218.7 ypg) the ball and has committed just five turnovers. Quarterback Matt Grothe is the key to this unit's success and he is having a solid year thus far. The versatile gunslinger has completed 60.4 percent of his tosses for 652 yards, with four touchdowns against no interceptions. He is also a threat to make plays with his legs, rushing for 88 yards and another touchdown. Last weekend, Grothe completed 17-of-30 throws for 230 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing for 35 yards in a 37-10 triumph over North Carolina. As a team, the Bulls rolled up 428 yards of total offense in the win, including 194 on the ground. Benjamin Williams paced the ground game with 64 yards and a score on 15 carries. He now has 117 rushing yards on the season and that is second to Mike Ford, who has accounted for 170 yards and four touchdowns. Ford was held to just 13 rushing yards and a touchdown on six carries last weekend, but he figures to play a bigger part in a much more important game this Saturday.

On the defensive side of the ball is where the Bulls' strength resides, as they are holding their opponents to only 15.3 ppg and a just 237.7 total ypg. The team has thrived against the run (79.0 ypg), but it has also had success versus the pass (158.7 ypg). Making big plays hasn't been a problem for this unit, which has recorded 11 turnovers (seven interceptions) and 12 sacks in just three games. Last weekend, USF not only held North Carolina to a mere 164 yards of total offense, but it also forced the Tar Heels into four interceptions. The team had no problems getting into the backfield either, sacking the quarterback on four occasions. George Selvie continued his tremendous start to the season, as registered three sacks and five TFLs in the win. One of the top pass rushers in the nation, Selvie has already posted 8.5 sacks and 14.5 TFLs this season.

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Re: Friday Football

West Virginia's defense no longer a concern
September 27, 2007

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -West Virginia's once-maligned defense is now aligned.

No more jokes about jump-starting opposing quarterbacks' careers. No more worries about having to hold opponents below 30 points in order to have a chance to win.

A defense that ranked 119th in the nation against the pass last year is back on solid ground.

West Virginia has given up 21 points over the last two games. Maryland had 269 total yards and East Carolina managed only 160 total yards and a last-minute score in a 49-7 loss.

``I think we have a good swagger about us,'' said West Virginia linebacker Marc Magro.

That will be tested Friday night when No. 5 West Virginia (4-0) plays at No. 18 South Florida (3-0).

The Bulls' Matt Grothe is one of those quarterbacks who flourished against West Virginia last year, throwing for 279 yards and a touchdown, and running for another in a 24-19 win in Morgantown.

``We've got to get to him and try to get him on the ground as much as we can,'' Williams said.

West Virginia's defense won't ever be confused with LSU's top-ranked unit, but the Mountaineers have shown marked improvement, ranking in the top 20 in total, scoring and rush defense and 33rd in pass defense.

``I think their confidence is beginning to grow,'' said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. ``We do have more experience there than we did last year. There are some things we could get better at, but at the same time, we're getting better each week.''

Among the many reasons behind that are the linebackers, who lost two starters from a year ago.

Reed Williams, Mortty Ivy and Magro lead the team in tackles. Ivy and Magro have four sacks apiece and are tied for the team lead with defensive end Johnny Dingle. Williams and Ivy have two of the team's five interceptions.

Ivy is fully recovered from a right knee injury from spring practice of 2006 that limited him last season.

Magro played all of last season with a knee injury, had surgery and missed spring practice in 2007. But he got busy in offseason workouts and established himself as the strongest linebacker in Rodriguez's seven seasons with a 455-pound bench press.

During practice in August, the coaching staff forced Magro, a Morgantown native, to go home to recover from mononucleosis.

``I call him maybe one of the hardest working players in college football. He's got a great passion for the game,'' Rodriguez said. ``He's a guy that you like to build your program around.

``Marc is playing outstanding and Mortty is playing the best football of his career. We're getting pretty good play by all three linebackers.''

Also, Michigan transfer Ryan Mundy has proven a solid addition at free safety.

``We are swarming to the ball,'' Ivy said. ``We've got to have five, six, seven hats to the ball.''

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No. 18 USF relishes challenge against No. 5 West Virginia
September 27, 2007

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Jim Leavitt was in his office, watching film and making plans for the biggest game in South Florida's relatively brief football history when he decided to take a little night stroll.

Barefoot and wearing shorts and a T-shirt, the only coach the school has had mingled among thousands of students camping out in hopes of getting tickets. Oh my, how things have changed for the 18th-ranked Bulls.

Raymond James Stadium, the immaculate 65,657-seat home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and biggest stadium used by a Big East school, will be packed for a USF home game for the first time when fifth-ranked West Virginia visits Friday night.

The mayor of Tampa has proclaimed it ``Green and Gold Day,'' and one of the tallest buildings downtown will be illuminated in the school colors.

The neatest thing for Bulls fans, though, is Leavitt and his players have given them reasons to believe they can win - not just put on a good show.

USF (3-0) knocked off Louisville, then ranked in the Top 10, two years ago, and the Bulls shocked then-No. 7 West Virginia 24-19 at Morgantown to knock the Mountaineers out of contention for a BCS bowl game last season.

Three weeks ago, they won at Auburn to move to the brink of the first Top 25 ranking in the program's 11-year history.

``For them, I am assuming they will come down here looking for revenge,'' quarterback Matt Grothe said of West Virginia (4-0). ``For us, we already know we can beat them and that gives us confidence. Now it is just a matter of playing and having fun.''

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez discounts redemption as motivation for his team. The Mountaineers haven't forgotten how the Bulls stifled offensive stars Steve Slaton and Pat White, but simply are focused on playing better this time.

``It's not so much revenge as I guess it is respect,'' West Virginia linebacker Reed Williams said.

``It's frustrating to watch the film because we know we can play better. But at the same time, they made us play worse,'' Rodriguez said. ``Our problems against South Florida were that they had some guys simply make plays.''

White ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns, while Slaton rushed for 89 yards and one TD to pace West Virginia's 28-14 victory in Tampa two years ago.

The Bulls did a better job against both in last November's win at Morgantown, holding the duo to 60 yards rushing and forcing three turnovers by White, the Mountaineers' quarterback.

USF nose tackle Richard Clebert said the keys to slowing Slaton, White and another talented Mountaineer, Noel Divine, will be discipline and good tackling.

``The thing is just about not being nosey. As soon as you get nosey, that's when they will break (a play) for 80 yards,'' Clebert said. ``We have to stay focused. ... You have to play your guy and play your assignment. That's it.''

Meanwhile, West Virginia has to find a way to contend with Grothe.

USF's sophomore quarterback threw for 279 yards against the Mountaineers last year, and is a threat to hurt them running the ball, too. He's attempted 127 passes without throwing an interception, a streak that began after he threw two picks at Morgantown.

``You get in his face and he has the ability to make some room for himself,'' Williams, West Virginia's leading tackler, said. ``He looks downfield well, and he'll throw a strike to them. We've got to get to him and try to get him on the ground as much as we can.''

The sellout crowd will eclipse the 49,212 USF drew to old Tampa Stadium for its inaugural game against Kentucky Wesleyan in 1997. The previous high for a game at Raymond James is 45,274 against West Virginia in 2005.

Rodriguez doesn't expect the atmosphere to affect the Mountaineers.

``Our guys have to understand it's going to be a hostile environment,'' the coach said. ``You'd rather go into an environment like that than go somewhere there's nobody there and nobody cares.''

Leavitt would love to get used to wading through all-night student campouts.

``That was pretty neat,'' he said. ``They were a lot of fun.''

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