In the waning moments of West Virginia's 30-27 win at South Florida Thursday night, three plays stood out as pivotal.Two came in the final seconds when Geno Smith hit Stedman Bailey on a fourth-down, 26-yard pass to set up Tyler Bitancurt's 28-yard field goal on the last play of the night.The third was the reason the other two were possible - Najee Goode's strip of USF quarterback B.J. Daniels. But don't expect Goode to explain it in great detail."Actually, on that play I didn't know what happened,'' Goode said. "I just saw everybody get up and scream. I knew I hit the ball, but I didn't know I jarred it loose."And then I saw Doug with that club and only one good hand and the ball. The guy on our team with one good hand actually recovered the fumble.''That would be linebacker Doug Rigg, who has played the second half of the season with a cast on one arm up to his fingers to protect a broken bone.That Daniels was even running the ball was a bit of a surprise. He had missed the last game and a half with a sprained shoulder and had spent most of the game avoiding tucking the ball and running in order to protect himself. But as the game wore on, Daniels apparently gained more confidence and was more like his usual dual-threat self."We knew when he got into a scrambling situation he'd be open to something like that,'' defensive lineman Julian Miller said. "But he never really scrambled much. And then in the second half I think he got more confident and started to scramble some.''
The play on which Daniels fumbled wasn't a scramble, but it was scramble-like - he was alone with the ball trying to pick his spot. It was a play-action handoff fake in which after the handoff Daniels took a little step back to freeze the defense and then headed into the line. It was a designed run all the way."I was just trying to get him down,'' Goode said. "I saw the ball swinging, but I was really thinking about just making the tackle and get them in second-and-long.''nn
To say that Pat Miller has had a rocky season would be an understatement.The junior from Birmingham, Ala., has started 10 of the team's 12 games this season, but had been targeted by more than one passer as the weak link in WVU's secondary.
Thursday was no different, but in the second quarter he made the biggest play of his career, intercepting a Daniels pass and returning it 52 yards for a touchdown.It was quite a difference from a month ago when he was flagged for two pass interference penalties on one drive that allowed Rutgers to score a touchdown.
"As a player, we all have plays where we could have done something different,'' Miller said. "The thing is, you've just got to be ready to make a play when it comes your way.''"I can't change what happened in that Rutgers game. But [against USF] I had a chance to make a difference in the game and help my team win.''The interception was the first of Miller's 20-game career.nn
Dustin Garrison has been West Virginia's starting tailback since his 291-yard effort against Bowling Green in the fifth game of the season. That's still the top individual rushing performance in the country this season.Since then, though, Garrison hasn't approached even 100 yards. He's had games of as few as 19 (Cincinnati) and 23 (Rutgers) yards. And Thursday appeared to be another mediocre night for the true freshman.
Then in the final minutes he caught fire. He ran for 37 yards on WVU's tying drive and scored the touchdown on a 5-yard run on which he wasn't touched. He would finish with 87 yards on 16 carries, both highs for the past six games."Dustin just gets better as the game goes on,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said. "The more you give it to him, the more he plays, the better he is. And we didn't give up on the run. We kept forcing it in there and once we wore them down a little bit he was able to get free.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com