Posted by Chip Patterson
WEST VIRGINIA WON. It was a sloppy game with five combined turnovers and 17 combined penalties, but the Mountaineers emerged victorious and earned a share of the Big East title with a 30-27 win over South Florida on Thursday night in Tampa. The Bulls out gained the Mountaineers, who struggled to get anything going offensively until the fourth quarter. West Virginia now needs Cincinnati to beat Connecticut on Saturday to likely win the three-team tiebreaker and earn a bid to a BCS bowl. If Connecticut beats Cincinnati, Louisville will win the two-team tiebreaker and take the BCS bid.
HOW WEST VIRGINIA WON: Capitalizing on South Florida's mistakes. The Bulls shot themselves in the foot over and over down the stretch after dominating for most of the second half. The penalties, missed tackles, and especially BJ Daniels' fumble late in the fourth quarter allowed West Virginia to bounce back after the Bulls rolled off 17 straight points to take a 27-20 lead. While the ground game has sputtered for long stretches this season, West Virginia got the right performance at the right time from Dustin Garrison. The freshman running back picked up 54 of his 88 yards and the only offensive touchdown on the final two Mountaineer drives. South Florida was committing their defense to pass protection, and Garrison found enough room to make moves and keep getting first downs.
WHEN WEST VIRGINIA WON: On 4th and 10 with 13 seconds remaining, Geno Smith found Stedman Bailey for an impressive diving catch in the middle of the field. The Mountaineers were able to spike the ball and set up Tyler Bitancurt for the game-winning field goal as time expired. All of it was set up by BJ Daniels' fumble with more than three minutes remaining at the West Virginia 30 yard line.
WHAT WEST VIRGINIA WON: The best shot they have to keep their BCS hopes alive. Last season the Mountaineers lost the three-team tiebreaker to Connecticut and missed out on a chance to return to a BCS bowl game for the first time since the Rich Rodriguez era. They would not have even had that opportunity this year with a loss on Thursday.
WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA LOST: South Florida missed out on the postseason for the first time since 2004. The close loss was representative of the Bulls' season, which started with so much hope after the first four wins. South Florida has never finished the season with just one conference win, dating all the way back to their Conference USA seasons in 2003-2004.
THAT WAS CRAZY. The Mountaineers average over 35 points per game on the season, but have been slow to get started in their last three contests. West Virginia's first offensive touchdown did not come until there was 5:09 remaining in the game. The last three games have all been slow-starting for the Mountaineers offense, but they have been the three crucial wins needed to keep the BCS hopes alive.
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