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USF’s Holtz Familiar With WVU

October 12, 2010
By JIM ELLIOTT

MORGANTOWN - Ready for a toxic mix Mountaineers fans?

Since the beginning of the 2006 season, West Virginia has an overall record of 44-12, a winning percentage of .785. It is 4-4 (.500) against South Florida and East Carolina, 40-8 (.833) against everyone else.

Why is that significant?

Well, the Mountaineers are playing host to South Florida on Thursday night, and the Bulls are now coached by Skip Holtz, who was East Carolina's coach during that entire stretch.

This has disaster written all over it, right?

Not necessarily, Holtz says.

''I think every football team is new every year,'' he said. ''We have a different program, different strengths and weaknesses than we had at East Carolina. We had some success with a 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-year quarterback. We don't have that luxury now.''

That was a reference to former ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney, who seemingly held the post for 43 years in Greenville, N.C., where he attempted an absurd 1,003 passes from 2004-2009.

Holtz continued, talking about potentially using last season's film of the WVU-USF game, won by the Bulls, 30-20, in Tampa, as an aid in helping slow today's Mountaineers.

''Well, we had a corner, safety, linebacker, and two defensive ends that are all in the NFL,'' he said. ''I think those guys did a great job. We're going to have some challenges.''

There, he was speaking of free safety Nate Allen, a second-round pick of the Eagles, cornerback Jerrome Murphy, a third-round pick of the Rams, linebacker Kion Wilson, an undrafted free agent now playing for San Diego, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, a Giants first-round pick, and defensive end George Selvie, a seventh-round selection by St. Louis.

(For good measure, Holtz won't have receiver Carlton Mitchell, either. He was plucked in the sixth round by the Browns).

For West Virginia, some of these losses were life-altering.

None will ever top Pitt in 2007 as The Worst Loss Ever, but West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, an assistant for the first two losses against South Florida, clearly thought pounding undersized running backs and quarterbacks into a stacked line while two lockdown cornerbacks smothered inferior receivers was not the way to beat a talented team like the Bulls.

Those losses are a big part of why you're seeing what you do today, which is routine 200-yard passing days by quarterback Geno Smith and receivers who are suddenly threatening school records.

As for the loss at East Carolina in 2008, it seems to bother Stewart as much or more than any of the other eight he's suffered as West Virginia's head coach. Here are some of the words he's used to describe what happened to the Mountaineers that day:

Then again, if we're going to include all of that history, we might want to include this: South Florida was beaten by Syracuse last week. Syracuse had won all of four games inside the league the last four years, while losing 24.

So who knows?

If these games were played on paper, West Virginia would be closer to 50-4 the last four-plus years, the underdog just once against USF, never against East Carolina.

With that, Stewart promises his coaches have been ''burning the midnight oil'' and working ''round the clock'' to find a way to make sure this trend ends during this short week.

''I left at midnight (Sunday night),'' Stewart said. ''(Defensive coordinator) Jeff Casteel was still there trying to figure that out.''

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net