Wow, what a wild finish.
No. 23 West Virginia came from behind to beat USF 30-27 on Thursday night when Tyler Bitancurt made a 28-yard field goal with no time left, clinching at least a share of the Big East title. Should Cincinnati beat UConn on Saturday, there would be a three-way tie atop the Big East standings between the Bearcats, Mountaineers and Louisville.
West Virginia (9-3, 5-2) would almost certainly earn the BCS berth because they would be the highest Big East team in the BCS standings (the three teams are 1-1 against each other). Louisville needs Cincinnati to lose in order to secure the Big East BCS berth, because the Cardinals have the head-t0-head advantage over West Virginia.
For USF, it was yet another heartbreaker -- the third game it lost this season on the final play of the game. USF has lost five games this season after taking leads into the fourth quarter, and finished the season with losses in six of its final seven games. The Bulls (5-7, 1-6) completed their worst season in Big East play and will miss a bowl game for the first time in seven seasons.
But as they have done all season, they got their fans' hopes up in the second half. USF erased a 20-10 third-quarter deficit thanks to some major mistakes from West Virginia. The Mountaineers were unable to do much of anything on offense, turning the ball over three times. USF translated those mistakes into 13 points. B.J. Daniels, who started the game despite a bruised shoulder, tied the game at 20 early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run.
On the next play from scrimmage, JaQuez Jenkins returned an interception for a touchdown and the Bulls led 27-20, sending hopes soaring in Cincinnati. The Bearcats desperately needed West Virginia to lose the game.
But USF decided it would make its own bad mistakes, and those ended up costing the Bulls. After stopping West Virginia on a third-and-long, a drive was kept alive when Ryne Giddins was called for a personal foul for throwing a punch. Then Dustin Garrison scored on a 5-yard run to tie the game.
After a terrific kickoff return from Lindsey Lamar, USF was able to drive into West Virginia territory. But Daniels fumbled with three minutes to go and West Virginia recovered. Playing with no timeouts, Geno Smith somehow led the team down field, and made an incredible 26-yard throw on fourth-and-10 to Stedman Bailey to get the Mountaineers into field goal range with only second remaining.
Tyler Bitancurt nailed the 28-yard field goal and the Mountaineers won. It was not pretty -- USF had more total yards and first downs, but the Mountaineers found a way to win. Defensive and special teams scored helped -- Tavon Austin had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Now they wait to see what happens Saturday with the Bearcats. A berth in the Orange Bowl is riding on that outcome.