MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia's defense put together stop after stop, giving the Mountaineers' sputtering offense enough opportunities to put away lethargic South Florida.
The Bulls were held without an offensive touchdown for the second straight week and Geno Smith threw for two scores to lead No. 25 West Virginia to a 20-6 win on Thursday night.
The nation's seventh-best defense recorded five sacks and South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels was nowhere near as effective as he was against the Mountaineers a year ago, when he accounted for 336 yards of offense in a 30-19 win.
WVU Offensive Approach
Daniels was intercepted three times, giving him 10 for the season and surpassing his total for all of 2009. He managed only 123 total yards, including 4 on the ground before being replaced late in the game.
"I was really proud of our defense," said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart. "Man, they came up big time and time again."
West Virginia (5-1, 1-0 Big East) won its 12th straight at home to set up an Oct. 23 showdown with Syracuse (4-1, 1-0). The Orange host Pittsburgh on Saturday after beating South Florida 13-9 a week ago.
The Mountaineers built a 17-3 halftime lead and both teams managed only a field goal apiece in the second half.
"We score 20 or 21 points, I know that that's a victory in the book," said West Virginia slot receiver Jock Sanders. "I salute our defense. It was a great win, but our defense kept us in the game."
South Florida (3-3, 0-2) was held to a season-low 202 yards of offense. The previous low was 219 yards against Syracuse.
"We're putting the ball in danger way too many times," Bulls coach Skip Holtz said. "We have got to put up more points. Our defense is playing way too well and they deserve better."
South Florida limited West Virginia to 298 total yards and slowed down Noel Devine for the second straight year. Devine led the Mountaineers with 29 yards on 13 carries. His longest run was 13 yards.
Instead, West Virginia relied on Smith for an arsenal of mostly short, controlled passes. He completed 13 straight passes spanning both halves and finished 24 of 31 for 219 yards.
West Virginia safety Robert Sands set the stage just before halftime, stepping in front of Daniels' pass to Evan Landi and returning the interception 27 yards to the South Florida 7.
West Virginia called a hook-and-lateral play on first down to the short side of the field. Smith threw a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage to Sanders. He immediately flipped the ball behind him to Devine, who went around right end from 11 yards out to give the Mountaineers a 17-3 halftime lead.
"That's a play that we carry in a lot of game plans, but we never get it called because it's so hit and miss," Smith said.
Sanders did a lot of catching with little to show for it. He had 10 receptions for just 31 yards. According to WVU statisticians, that's the fewest receiving yards in school history for a player with at least 10 catches in a game.
But the Mountaineers did enough, especially at frustrating Daniels. Keith Tandy caught a tipped pass early in the fourth quarter for his fourth interception in three games. Brantwon Bowser had his first career interception for the Mountaineers.
"The defense did a very good job at containing us, and we've just got to get back to the drawing board," Daniels said.