Tyler Bitancurt hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired as the West Virginia Mountaineers (9-3) beat the USF Bulls (5-7) 30-27 tonight at Raymond James Stadium.
Like most of the season, the Bulls were plagued by self inflicted wounds. Two special teams miscues lead to 10 WVU points, and USF's two turnovers lead to 10 more points for the Mountaineers. The Bulls run defense was stout for most of the night, but the secondary was burned once again in late game situations.
The 4th quarter was really a microcosm of the season as a whole. After the Bulls took a 27-20 lead with 9:49 left on a JaQuez Jenkins 28 yard interception return for a touchdown, USF looked like they were in total control of the game. WVU was forced into a 3rd and 16 situation on their next possession deep in their own territory, but a horrific Ryne Giddins personal foul gave West Virginia the lifeline they desperately needed. Only three plays later, Dustin Garrison tied the game at 27 with 5:09 left in the game after he scored from 5-yards out.
The Bulls were able to grab some great field possession after Lindsey Lamar returned the ensuing kickoff to the West Virginia 41, and the Bulls were slowly moving the ball down and getting into at least Maikon Bonani field goal range. Disaster hit with 3 minutes left as Najee Goode stripped the ball from B.J. Daniels at the WVU 26 yard line West Virginia recovered to give the Mountaineers a chance to win the game.
The Mountaineers were able to go right down the field, getting 10-15 yards at a time against the USF secondary. USF looked like they were going to force overtime after Mike Jeune sacked Geno Smith with under a minute to go, but on 4th and 10 from the USF 42, Smith found a wide open Stedman Bailey for 26 yards to get it down to the 16 yard line. Another unnecessary penalty took it to the 11 and then Bitancurt hit the winning field goal.
With the win, West Virginia clinched a tie of the Big East Championship. They could earn the conference's BCS bid with a Cincinnati win against UConn this weekend. That would leave Louisville, West Virginia, and Cincinnati at 5-2 in the conference, and they 3 way tie would be settled by BCS rankings, which the Mountaineers have a sizeable lead.
With the loss, USF finishes with the first losing record since 2004 and will not head to their 7th straight bowl.