A year ago, when Jim Leavitt coached the South Florida Bulls to a stunning 24-19 victory at West Virginia, he thought he had a lot to worry about entering the game.

There was Patrick White and Steve Slaton. There was Steve Slaton and Patrick White. And then there was … eh … well, there was Patrick White and Steve Slaton.

On Saturday, Rich Rodriguez and his talent rich Mountaineers showed him he’s got a whole lot more to prepare for this Friday night when the two teams meet in what is the biggest football game USF has ever played and one that isn’t too far off from that for West Virginia.

Rodriguez his expanded his offense to make a point — actually 48 of them — against East Carolina’s stingy defense on Saturday and came at the Pirates from so many angles and directions with so many different weapons that they had to feel like the French and Spanish armadas at the Battle of Trafalga in 1805.

This is the way wide receiver Dorrell Jalloh described what it was like for Holtz.

“For another team to watch the offense … Wow! It’s ‘Tito got the ball, Jalloh got the ball. Steve’s got the ball. Patrick’s throwing it. It’s the bubble. Darius has the ball.’ Now they don’t know what to do. Now they are like, ‘Wow! Who do we stop now?’

“That’s when we can start picking people off one-by-one. When everyone has a chance to touch the ball in a series it makes us look balanced and running on all cylinders.”

Let’s just take a look at the second-quarter drive the Mountaineers executed to extend their lead to 24-0. They went 72 yards in 10 plays, but it’s what they put into those 10 plays that will allow you to understand what Jim Leavitt went through on Sunday when he looked at the tape and began trying to put together his defensive game plan.

It started with Slaton running for 4 yards and White for 6. First down.

White then threw outside to Brandon Hogan for 9 and Slaton went 5 yards. First down.

White next threw to Jalloh for 9, Slaton adding 4. First down.

Next White found Owen Schmitt at tight end for 5 and Hogan for 12. First down.

Slaton got the ball again, gaining 6 and then White threw a bubble screen to Darius Reynaud for 12 yards.


How many Mountaineers took part in the drive. Well White ran and White passed, so make that two. Slaton ran. Hogan caught two passes. Schmitt caught one. Jalloh caught one. Reynaud caught one.

What do you take away? What can you take away?

“I was standing on the sideline with Darius after the score was 24-0,” Jalloh recalled. “I said, ‘We’re playing an exceptional game. We’re putting drives together. We’re executing, making good blocks on the outside. We’re looking good right now.’”

It is a different kind of good than the Mountaineers were a year ago, when they relied simply on the speed of White and Slaton and, on occasion, Reynaud for big plays, quick strikes.

“We take what they give us,” Patrick White explained.

Take the bubble screen that has become the perfect complement to much of what WVU runs.

“Every time he called the bubble screen, I was one-on-one with the safety,” Reyaund said, who had two touchdown catches against East Carolina in addition to a 64-yard run on a reverse. “I have such good moves I can make my man miss.”

A year ago, for example, when East Carolina shut down the WVU running game, Rodriguez sort of let the play slip out of his repertoire.

“We knew before the game that we had some of the perimeter throws and we didn’t take them last year,” Rodriguez said. “It was kind of a point of emphasis. Darius caught a few, Brandon Hogan caught a few. Again, if you are going to run a spread offense, you have to make people defends you all 53-and-a-third yards of the field.”

The result of this diversity — and of the blowout that nearly became a shutout — was that Rodriguez was able to show off his depth. No fewer than eight runners carried the ball as the team averaged 7.4 yards a rush.

The same was true of the receiving corps where Brandon Hogan, heretofore a little-used freshman wide receiver who was waiting his turn, showed up as a big-time performer with six catches. In all, eight receivers caught passes from White and Jarrett Borwn, who combined for 22 of 25 and 202 yards.

The 88 percent completion ratio stands as the highest ever in Mountaineer Field, which was opened in 1980.

And so it is that South Florida has a totally different animal to contend with this week than they had a year ago when they ended any WVU hopes of reaching the BCS. They really have no way to prepare against the speed or the versatility that will see from WVU in a week.

In truth, there is only one way to get ready for it and that is to see it on a daily basis. The Mountaineer defensive unit, which goes against those weapons on a daily basis, understands that.

“When our defense goes against our offense, it’s a battle,” Rodriguez said. “We’re used to it,” said linebacker Mortty Ivy. “When you first see it, though, it’s hard to adjust to.”

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