"They backed their linebackers up a little bit to protect against the pass,'' said Garrison, who had 32 of his 87 rushing yards on that drive. "That's when you attack them.''
Still, things looked bleak for the Mountaineers when after playing exceptionally well on kickoff returns all night they gave up a 52-yarder to Lindsey Lamar after the tying touchdown. USF took over at the WVU 41 and seemed destined to run down the clock and get a chance at a winning field goal.
But Daniels was stripped of the ball on a keeper in the middle by Najee Goode and Doug Rigg recovered for the Mountaineers and their own 25. That was with 3:02 to play and gave WVU new life against a team that has made it a habit of losing late leads this season.
"I was just trying to wrap him up and make a good tackle, but the ball came out,'' Goode said. "And then I looked down there and the guy on our team one hand actually recovered the ball. That's great.''
Rigg has played the second half of the season with a heavily bandaged hand because of a broken bone.
Still, a West Virginia offense that had put together just one drive all night needed to go 50 or so yards to get into field goal range. They did so slowly and with just 13 seconds remaining faced fourth-and-10 at the USF 42, out of field goal range and timeouts.
But instead of going toward the sidelines, Smith threw a strike down the middle that a diving Bailey snared at the 16. The clock stopped with six seconds to play to move the chains and that's when it got really interesting.
Bailey remained on the ground for a moment, either injured or perhaps thinking he should fake one. But that wouldn't work because by rule an injury at that point would have forced officials to run 10 seconds off the clock and the game would have been over.
So WVU tailback Shawne Alston rushed down to Bailey as the chain crew was moving and pulled him up off the ground. Smith and the rest of the offense got down the field in time to line up and spike the ball with three seconds to play.
"I didn't know if he'd hurt his shoulder or what,'' Alston said of Bailey. "But I knew I had to get him up and get lined up.''
It left Bitancurt a full 40-second play clock to line up and kick a 33-yard field goal. It became a 28-yarder when South Florida had 12 men on the field and tried to run one off. The Bulls called their only remaining time out to try to ice Bitancurt, but his kick was perfect.
Bitancurt immediately started running around in circles, not sure of what to do after kicking the second game-winner of his career, the first being his boot to beat Pitt two years ago.
And now West Virginia will spend today and much of Saturday not sure quite what to do, either. A BCS bowl berth is out of the Mountaineers' hands. Now it's up to Cincinnati, which isn't playing for a BCS berth but does have a share of the league title at stake.
"Cincinnati's a good team. They're well coached,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They don't need our words of wisdom to want to win the game and be co-Big East champs. I think they'll be playing pretty hard.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.