Bulls Are Sole Focus
CHARLESTON – West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen insists the Mountaineers are focused on this week’s trip to Florida, not a possible one in January.
No. 22 West Virginia (8-3, 4-2 Big East) must beat South Florida on Thursday night, then get a win by Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2) over Connecticut on Saturday to forge a three-way tie for the conference title with Louisville (7-5, 5-2).
If that happens, the berth would go to the team with the highest ranking in the final BCS standings next Sunday. West Virginia is currently 23rd.
“What this team is going to be remembered for is what happens this week at South Florida,” Holgorsen said Monday. “Right now this is the only game on the schedule, and we’ve got to give it everything we’ve got.”
If West Virginia loses and Cincinnati wins, the Bearcats would earn the BCS bid. A Cincinnati loss would give the BCS bid to the Cardinals no matter what West Virginia does because Louisville beat the Mountaineers during the regular season.
The Atlantic Coast Conference championship game between Clemson and Virginia Tech will determine one representative in the Jan. 4 Orange Bowl. There’s been reports the winner will face the Big East champ.
Up until Thursday, Holgorsen only wants his players’ attention exclusively on the Bulls (5-6, 1-5), saying he needs “total effort, total focus and total energy.”
“That’s the only thing that counts,” he said. “Once that’s over, it’s out of our control. I’m sure everybody is going to be glued to the TV set if we’re able to get a victory Thursday night. But if we can’t take care of business and get the victory Thursday night, it really doesn’t matter what happens on Saturday.”
West Virginia has been in must-win mode ever since losing to Louisville at home on Nov. 5. A win at Cincinnati on Nov. 12 was followed by a 21-20 comeback victory against Pittsburgh on Friday night to set up the final week of drama.
“The closer you get to winning a conference championship, the bigger the game gets,” Holgorsen said.
Things weren’t looking good after the Mountaineers fell behind Pittsburgh 20-7 early in the third quarter of the Backyard Brawl.
That’s when 348-pound redshirt freshman Quinton Spain and 300-pound sophomore Curtis Feigt were inserted on the offensive line and West Virginia responded with two touchdown drives.
On defense, the Mountaineers registered six of their 10 sacks of Tino Sunseri in the fourth quarter and held Pittsburgh out of the end zone after halftime.
Spain and Feigt will start against South Florida, which has lost six of its last seven games but can become bowl eligible with a win.
“It’s a one-game season and we’ve got to make sure we come out focused and ready to play,” West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith said. “We can’t have any letdowns.”