Mountaineers Ready to Meet Bulls

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia will play South Florida tonight on just four days’ rest.

So what, receiver Jock Sanders said.

”I like games,” he said. ”Nobody likes practices. We like games. We’re all hyped up, but you have to prepare. We’ll be ready.”

At West Virginia, they like night games, too.

The Mountaineers are 24-6-2 all time at home after dark in Morgantown, last losing one in 2008 against Cincinnati.

”Night games open up a whole new atmosphere,” Mountaineers tight end Tyler Urban said.

So do games against the Bulls, who are in the first year of a coaching change and have been trying to rebuild a defense that was gutted by the NFL Draft.

The defensive end position at USF is like linebacker at Penn State. Jason Pierre-Paul and George Selvie left for the NFL. Enter Craig Marshall, who had eight tackles and three sacks last week against Syracuse.

”There hasn’t been a huge drop,” WVU running backs coach Chris Beatty said. ”Those (new) guys aren’t too far behind.”

Former East Carolina coach Skip Holtz is now in charge of the Bulls, replacing Jim Leavitt as the program’s second head coach. In doing so, he brought in all new assistants, including ex-Marshall coach Mark Snyder as his defensive coordinator, and new terminology.

”I’ve used the analogy that they’ve been learning French for four years, and we’re teaching them Span-ish,” Holtz sa-id. ”And they’re in their first semester.”

That wasn’t much of a problem last season for still-learning-French freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels, who made his fourth career start and torched the Moutaineers for 104 yards on the ground and 232 in the air in a 30-19 victory.

The West Virginia defense, which is tops in the Big East, generally prefers going against pocket passers to dual-threat QBs, with Daniels being as good as anyone in that regard.

”He likes to run; he’s fast,” WVU nose tackle Chris Neild said. ”Whenever you have a dual-threat quarterback like that who can run, that’s always going to be an extra challenge for us. We know that going in, we just have to contain him.

”When he gets out there, he’s tough to catch.”

Daniels has completed 50 of 95 passes for 684 yards and seven touchdowns this season, while running for 186 yards and two scores this season.

”I hope we do not have the same plan for him as we did last year,” West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. ”Whatever we did last year, we better not repeat this year.

”I don’t know if anyone can have a plan to stop B.J. Daniels – you just have to try to contain him as best you can because they also have a lot of offensive weapons.

”He can still take the ball and go. They are building an offense that is going to be fun for the USF Bulls fans to come. I just hope it isn’t fun for them on Thursday. They have so much talent. They match up well with us.”

Glowing remarks, for sure.

Almost as bright as the ones Holtz had for the Mountaineers.

”It doesn’t get any easier this week,” said Holtz, whose team was beaten 13-9 by the Orange. ”This is one of the best teams Coach Stewart has put together.

”I think one of the things that makes them so much more potent is the development of (sophomore quarterback) Geno Smith. It wasn’t enough that they had (Noel) Devine, (Tavon) Austin, Sanders, all the sudden, Brad Starks comes back and has a 100-yard receiving game.

”They have a lot of big-play potential.”

For all the talk about the USF defense, Holtz said his offense might have to win this game.

”We’re going to have to capitalize on big-play opportunities, and improve on third down. The best defense we have is keeping some of their weapons on the bench.

”And we have to score more than nine points. You’re not going to hold a group like this down with all the weapons they have.”