TAMPA (CFP) -- It wasn't pretty, but USF took down West Virginia for the second straight year with a 21-13 win in Tampa on Friday night.
The teams combined for 10 turnovers. West Virginia had 3 fumbles and 3 passes intercepted, while the Bulls gave up two of each. However, USF had all of the numbers that really mattered - 1 win, a 1-0 Big East record, a 4-0 over-all record, and 67,018 fans who sold out Raymond James Stadium for a nationally-televised game.
South Florida has only been playing football since 1997, and competing at its highest collegiate level since 2001. Friday night, the program arrived in full force.
"The crowd to me was unbelievable", said head coach Jim Leavitt, who has led the program from day one and improved his record to 74-43. "It was hard to not get too emotional". Leavitt, however, played down the magnitude of the victory and instead offered that the preseason goals were "not necessarily to beat West Virginia, but to win a Big East championship". He was also quick to point out that his team is only 1-0 in the Big East and the USF season is only four games old.
When South Florida won 24-19 in Morgantown last year, the Bulls capitalized on four WVU turnovers. West Virginia needed less than a half to equal that turnover number this year. The Mountaineers' first eight possessions resulted in three punts, a turnover on downs, 3 fumbles and 1 interception.
USF was in a giving mood, too. The Bulls missed a field goal on their opening drive, then turned the ball over on each of their next three possessions. They broke the sloppy, scoreless stalemate when Ben Moffitt returned his interception of a Pat White pass 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:13 left in the first quarter.
The Bulls stretched the lead to 14-0 when Matt Grothe scrambled out of a heavy rush and spotted a wide-open Carlton Mitchell well behind the defense. Mitchell made the catch near the sideline and tight-roped into the endzone to complete a 55-yard score.
West Virginia got on the board with just 3 seconds left in the first half on a 36-yard field goal. But the manner in which that score came about didn't help West Virginia feel better about themselves at intermission. Quarterback Pat White was injured during a scramble on the 15-play drive and never returned to the game. Backup Jarrett Brown entered and promptly lost 17 yards on a bad snap, forcing the field goal try and preventing the Mountaineers from getting a crack at a touchdown.
South Florida made it 21-3 on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter. Jamar Taylor's 19-yard run capped a 13-play, 74-yard drive - the Bulls' best drive of the game.
The Mountaineers answered with a 10-play march, but were once again limited to a field goal. Interceptions ended their next two possessions, and only 5:45 remained in the game when West Virginia finally found the endzone on a 9-yard pass from Brown to Darius Reynaud. After forcing a USF punt, the Mountaineers had another chance to mount a game-winning drive, but their last gasp ended on downs at the USF 40 with 39 seconds left in the game.
West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez said, "We're not going to point any fingers. We're just going to work hard to try to get back to playing at a high level again."
The Mountaineers, 3-1 over-all, 0-1 in the Big East, go to Syracuse next Saturday. South Florida (4-0, 1-0) plays a non-conference game at FAU.