The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 30, 2011

Mountaineers favored by 1-point over South Florida

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — Any football fan who doesn’t think West Virginia will have a tough time beating South Florida should think again.

The Bulls (5-6, 1-5 Big East) are listed as only a one-point underdog by USA Today against the No. 22 ranked Mountaineers (8-3, 4-2 Big East) for Thursday night’s regular-season finale.

The kickoff is set for 8 p.m. at Raymond Jones Stadium in Tampa. ESPN will televise the action.

You would think being tabbed as only a slight favorite would add to the motivation WVU players undoubtedly possesses, with at least a share of the Big East championship at stake.

USF also needs a victory to become bowl-eligible, so the Mountaineers are expecting its best shot.

The Bulls, who share last place in the conference with Syracuse, have been baffling under second year head coach Skip Holtz.

They started the season with a surprising 23-20 victory at Notre Dame, then won their next three games to go to 4-0.

But South Florida fell 44-17 at Pitt in its fifth game and has lost six of the last seven contests. Two defeats were by three points each and another by six points.

The WVU-USF series is tied at 3-3 all-time. But the Bulls own 2-1 edge for games played in Tampa.

They won by 21-13 in 2007 and by 30-19 down there in 2009.

After winning by 28-13 in Tampa in 2005, West Virginia added victories over USF in Morgantown by 13-7 in 2008 and by 20-6 in 2010.

Despite the fact Tampa hasn’t been kind to WVU, Coach Dana Holgorsen said it isn’t a matter of concern. He said his team just needs to focus on the present,  not the past.

“As many close games as there are in the Big East,” he stated, “you’ve got to find ways to get the job done. It’s a big challenge.

“But we’ve got a good bunch of senior leadership (23 players) and it’s important to them that we meet this challenge.”

Holgorsen considers the USF game as bigger than any of the previous 11 because of what’s riding on the outcome.