There’s just something about USF playing West Virginia on a Friday night at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bulls topped the No. 21 Mountaineers 30-19 in front of almost 57, 000 fans, avoiding a three-game losing streak for the third straight year to regain some of the momentum they had early in the season after a 5-0 start.
In 2007, the then-No. 18 Bulls beat the No. 5 Mountaineers on a Friday night ESPN broadcast, a win that many referred to as the best in school history at the time. USF now has three wins in the last four seasons against West Virginia.
“I guess it’s just game-planning,” said senior Chris Robinson of USF’s success against West Virginia. “They’re always one of the hardest teams to game plan for. We always put the time in against them. With the option, you have to put the time in there.”
USF’s defense, which couldn’t get off the field during a 41-14 loss at Pittsburgh last week, bottled up the West Virginia offense, swarming running back Noel Devine to 42 yards on 17 carries.
Devine, who entered as one of the nation’s leading rushers, only managed 2.5 yards per carry.
“We talked a lot about it, and we didn’t want to let him get outside,” said USF coach Jim Leavitt. “We wanted to make sure we kept him inside.”
The USF offense, meanwhile, was more than efficient. Redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels had the best game of his young career, totaling 336 yards of offense – 13 more than West Virginia had as a team.
Wide receiver Carlton Mitchell, who left with a high ankle sprain late in the game, had a season-high 132 yards and caught a 49-yard touchdown pass from Daniels in the first quarter after USF gave up an opening touchdown to West Virginia.
Daniels later hit Mitchell on a 69-yard pass in the second quarter that set up a 12-yard touchdown toss to A.J. Love to give USF a 17-9 lead.
“West Virginia was expecting me to run once I got outside the pocket,” Daniels said. “Their defensive backs had eyes on me.”
The Mountaineers cut the Bulls’ lead to 20-19 in the third quarter on an 11-yard touchdown run from quarterback Jarrett Brown.
Daniels then hit freshman Sterling Griffin for a 6-yard score to put USF up 27-19, and kicker Eric Schwartz, who was 3-for-3 in the game, iced things off with a 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
USF (6-2, 2-2) is off next week before traveling to Rutgers on Nov. 12. Daniels said the pressure would have mounted heading into the off week had USF not come away with a win.
“I guess a lot of people were doubting us, saying we’re going to go down the same path as we did for the last two years,” Daniels said. “That was a lot of garbage our team didn’t listen to. We all focused up and did the things we needed to do to come out with a win.”