USF defensive coordinator Mark Snyder laid out a simple solution to stop one of the best passing quarterbacks in the Big East.
“We’re going to have to create some pressure,” he said. “We have to tackle in space.”
Creating pressure hasn’t been a problem for the Bulls defense, which has 11 sacks in the last two games.
And getting to West Virginia sophomore quarterback Geno Smith early is a top priority for the USF defense when it faces the Mountaineers on Thursday.
“He’s a bigger quarterback, so a lot of quarterbacks we’ve been playing haven’t been standing as tall, so he can see more down the field,” senior defensive end Craig Marshall said. “We just have to try and keep him bottled because he does have speed and size. We’re just going to have to play physical.”
Still a spread offense, the Mountaineers have incorporated more of a dropback passing identity this season to complement Smith, a first-year starter who ranks second in the Big East (20th in the country) in passing efficiency. Smith has completed 66 percent of his passes and thrown 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions
“They’re throwing the ball better than they ever have,” USF coach Skip Holtz said. “Geno Smith is the best passing quarterback they’ve had. They’re adding a dimension to their offense they’ve not had over the last four or five years.”
USF, which ranks first in the Big East in pass defense (allowing only 155 yards per game), will aim to limit a West Virginia offense that does a “great job of mismatching people,” Snyder said.
Success against WV
Last year against West Virginia, USF quarterback B.J. Daniels threw for 232 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 104 yards to help lead the unranked Bulls to a home win against then-No. 20 West Virginia.
“It was a pretty hostile environment,” Daniels said. “They were one of the top teams in the Big East, and we just went out and tried to have fun and let our head loose and just play.”
The Mountaineers, No. 25 in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls, enter the game in Morgantown as the Big East’s only ranked team.
Sophomore running back Demetris Murray re-aggravated an ankle injury against Syracuse, Holtz said Monday. He said he is unsure if Murray will play Thursday. Freshman Marcus Shaw and redshirt freshman Bradley Battles could see more carries if Murray can’t go, Holtz said … Sophomore receiver Sterling Griffin, recovering from a dislocated and fractured ankle, was available Saturday but didn’t play because his ankle “is still really stiff,” Holtz said. “You don’t come off an injury of that magnitude and go, ‘OK, I’m ready. Let’s go full speed,'” he said … USF has won three of its past four games against West Virginia.