WVU’s Miller is active FBS leader in sacks, looks to add more
CHARLESTON – West Virginia defensive tackle Julian Miller wants to add to his recently bulked-up sack total. Trouble is, he doesn’t know which South Florida quarterback he’ll be chasing on Thursday night.
Mobile veteran B.J. Daniels remains questionable with a right-shoulder injury after missing the previous game against Louisville. Bulls coach Skip Holtz indicated this week that sophomore Bobby Eveld would get his second straight start for South Florida (5-6, 1-5 Big East) if Daniels can’t play against No. 22 West Virginia (8-3, 4-2).
“That was the issue coming in to watch film,” Miller said. “We’re definitely preparing for Daniels as well as his backup quarterback. We played against B.J. Daniels the past couple of years, so we know his athletic ability and what he’s capable of. The backup quarterback, we know he’s good. He throws a really good fastball.”
For Miller and the West Virginia defense, finishing strong is a must with a share of a conference title and possible Bowl Championship Series bid on the line.
Miller, a native of Columbus, Ohio, became the active Football Bowl Subdivision leader with 27.5 sacks following a four-sack performance in last week’s win in the Backyard Brawl over Pittsburgh. He leads Vinny Curry of cross-state foe Marshall by one.
With the performance watched by his parents – including his mother and sister who flew in from Alaska – Miller tied a WVU single-game record shared by three others and more than doubled his sacks on the season, which began with the senior nursing an ankle injury.
Defensive end Bruce Irvin is normally the target of opposing offensive linemen. Irvin has 21.5 sacks in 24 career games and Miller credited Pittsburgh’s efforts to stop Irvin for allowing Miller to get to the quarterback.
“A couple of guys were actually out there calling his name,” Miller said of Irvin. “It helped me knowing they were going to focus on him to be able to get around them. They kind of forgot about me and the abilities I had.”
For the game, West Virginia finished with 10 sacks – six in the fourth quarter alone.
Miller had a backup role in the first four games of the season while trying to recover from his injured ankle, which kept him from performing at his peak. So compiling so many sacks at once against Pitt was gratifying.
“This game was a little bit overdue,” he said. “I didn’t have the chance at the beginning of the season to make as many plays as I could. This was a great way and a great time to be able to have a game like this.”
West Virginia limited Pitt to 80 yards in the second half of the 21-20 win. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Miller and Irvin have “elevated their games” as the season has progressed.
“That’s what great players do when you get into the games where it means a tremendous amount to win,” Holgorsen said. “I think defensively, we had a lot of new starters and it’s just like any team. It takes a while for guys to play together.”
Miller and Co. might have to share the attention on Thursday night. South Florida is second nationally with 37 sacks, 12 more than the Mountaineers.
The last time West Virginia played the Bulls in Tampa, Fla., two years ago, Miller recorded a tackle for a safety.
“It’s a challenge, but definitely a challenge we’re up for,” Miller said.