The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

October 14, 2010

WVU opens Big East play tonight

MORGANTOWN — The real season begins today for West Virginia University’s No. 25-ranked Mountaineers as they open Big East play against South Florida in a nationally televised mid-week affair.

Those who look at the records will see WVU is 4-1 and South Florida 3-2 and coming off a devastating home loss to Syracuse in its conference opener.

Be warned, however, this is anything but a walkover for the Mountaineers.

South Florida traditionally gives WVU fits, having won three of five previous meetings, including last year’s 30-19 romp in Tampa, and they do it with a quarterback named B.J. Daniels can personally take over a game with his athletic skills.

Certainly West Virginia coach Bill Stewart approaches facing Daniels with caution.

“I don’t know if anyone has a plan to stop B.J. Daniels. You just try to contain him as best you can,” Stewart said.

A year ago, whatever he tried was wrong, as he admitted on Tuesday of this week.

“I hope we don’t have the same plan we used last year because he ran over 100 yards and threw for almost 230 yards,” he said. “Whatever we did last year we better not repeat.”

About the only thing that has contained Daniels is his own coach, Skip Holtz.

A year ago, under Jim Leavitt, Daniels was given a great deal of freedom to freelance in the backfield.

He would roll right, roll left, maybe throw, maybe run.

WVU could not stop him, but Leavitt was dismissed after becoming involved in a battle with the school over an incident with a player and Holtz hired.

The result this year is that Daniels has not been nearly as effective, either running or passing, as he was last year.%

  At first, Stewart was reluctant to talk about the coaching changes affect on Daniels for fear of criticizing a brother coach, simply saying, “I don’t want to go down that road.”

However, he did note that Daniels is doing more under center, running more I-formation than previously.

“He can still take that ball and go. They are building an offense that will be fun for the South Florida fans for years,” Stewart said.

It is an adjustment, really, for everyone, much as it was at WVU when first Rich Rodriguez, then Patrick White, left, leaving Stewart to reshape the offense.

Holtz understands that Daniels is going through some growing pains. He even expected it.

“He’s a young quarterback,’’ Holtz said. “The receivers have to learn that on this route I run a curl. B.J. has to know not only that that guy runs a curl and what that (other) guy runs, but he’s got to know what the protection is and where the hot read is coming from. He’s got to know what all 22 guys on the field are doing.

“There’s a reason they pay those guys in the NFL as much money as they do. There’s so much vested in them from the mental standpoint. And it’s the same thing for B.J. right now. I think he’s coming. I think he’s progressing. I think he’s doing some really good things.

“My frustration is that I see him doing so many of those things in practice, but they don’t always carry over to the game. If you didn’t see him do it in practice, you’d never call it in a game.”

The truth is that Daniels has been hurting South Florida to date. He was five for 20 with four interceptions against Florida and 9 of 23 with two more interceptions against Syracuse.

Still, WVU knows what Daniels can do and is preparing for the big-time player the Mountaineers saw a season ago.

“He went through us, around us, over us, under us, whatever he wanted to do,’’ Stewart said. “I keep seeing shades of last year. I worry about him. I worry about the wide outs. I worry about the running backs.”

WVU’s defense seems better able to handle the challenge this year than last, being more experienced and having added Bruce Irvin as a relentless pass rusher who should disrupt much of what Daniels wants to do.

What’s more, the defense is healthy again, middle linebacker Pat Lazear capable of playing, which allows defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel to do more on the defensive side with Lazear and Anthony Leonard, who had to move to the middle from the strongside linebacker in his absence.

Offensively, running back Noel Devine should be at full go, although he has not had much success against South Florida and has never rushed for a touchdown against the Bulls, while offensive guard Josh Jenkins also is expected to be nearly 100 percent after minor knee surgery.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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