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Power of 10 (Turnovers): Leavitt Alone On Top

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The West Virginia Mountaineers. Fifth-ranked team in all the nation, despite a reasonably easy schedule. A juggernaut spread offense featuring Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Owen Schmitt that did pretty much whatever they wanted, including an average of 360 rushing yards per game. Defensively sturdy, allowing a measly 175 yards passing per game, and an even lesser 88 yards rushing.

The South Florida Bulls. Only in their 11th year as a football program. Up and coming under head coach Jim Leavitt, having beaten West Virginia late last season, but no real accomplishments aside from that, win over Auburn not withstanding. Absolute slobber-knocker of a game, right? You guessed it. West Virginia continues to roll? Not so much.

Introducing your winner, the South Florida Bulls! Who knows exactly what happened here. On paper, West Virginia did enough things right. Sure, they were atrocious on offense, managing "only" 188 yards rushing while fumbling five times, losing three of them, and also tossing three interceptions.

Thing is, the Bulls weren't much better. They had fewer yards (274 to WVU's 473) and almost as many turnovers (two each of the fumble and turnover variety), yet somehow managed to be the sole survivor of this horrific train wreck of a game.

Train wreck is a bit strong of a term? You be the judge:

1st Quarter 

1st-10, 50 8:15 M. Ford rushed to the right for no gain. M. Ford fumbled. S. Berry recovered fumble
1st-10, WVU30 5:49 B. Williams rushed up the middle for 1 yard gain. B. Williams fumbled. E. Wicks recovered fumble
1st-10, WVU44 5:40 S. Slaton rushed up the middle for 1 yard gain. S. Slaton fumbled. C. Williams recovered fumble
1st-10, WVU31 2:50 E. Lankster intercepted M. Grothe for 20 yards

3rd-7, WVU28 1:35 B. Moffit intercepted P. White for 26 yard touchdown

2nd Quarter
2nd-1, SFla30 14:20 S. Slaton rushed up the middle for no gain. S. Slaton fumbled. W. George recovered fumble
3rd-8, SFla45 9:55 M. Grothe passed to C. Mitchell to the right for 55 yard touchdown. D. Alvarado made PAT
1st-10, SFla30 6:40 P. White passed to B. Hogan to the right for no gain. B. Hogan fumbled. N. Allen recovered fumble and returned for 44 yards
1st-10, WVU26 6:21 R. Mundy intercepted M. Grothe for 17 yards


That's three interceptions and five fumbles. In 17 minutes of the first half. I think it's safe to call that a gruesome train wreck of a game, and South Florida went into the lockers with a 14-3 lead.

It only got worse from there for the Mountaineers, as Pat White did not return for the second half after taking a hard helmet contact that created a nasty bruise on his right thigh. Backup quarterback Jarrett Brown managed a touchdown pass, but not until after he had thrown two interceptions (including one on second and goal). After that, it was just a matter of killing the clock for South Florida, who now stand a decent chance of sniffing the top 10 for the first time in school history when the next set of rankings come out.

I would think this game says a lot more about South Florida's rise than it does about any sense of impending doom for West Virginia. The Mountaineers met a good defense and got shut down. They face Syracuse and Mississippi State the next two weeks, so a rebound is likely. However, until we know about this injury to Pat White, it's difficult to judge whether they can still salvage that Big East Championship that was all but handed to them in the preseason.

What about those Bulls? They get to continue their cruising with a match against Florida Atlantic next weekend, followed by a Central Florida team that they should beat if we just saw the real deal this weekend.  After that, it's back to Big East play, so who the hell knows.

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