TAMPA, Fla. -- West Virginia won a share of the Big East Conference title Thursday night, in only the way West Virginia can.
Tyler Bitancurt kicked a 28-yard field goal as time expired to give the Mountaineers a 30-27 victory against South Florida at Raymond James Stadium in the most dramatic finish yet this season.
Dustin Garrison's five-yard touchdown run -- the Mountaineers' only offensive touchdown of the game -- tied it, 27-27, with 5:09 to play.
A forced fumble by Najee Goode on South Florida's next possession gave the ball back to West Virginia and the scene was set for the drive of the season with 3:02 remaining.
From its 26, West Virginia drove to the South Florida 11 -- with no timeouts -- setting up Bitancurt with three seconds left for the winning kick.
It went through the uprights as time expired and West Virginia stormed the field.
"It felt so good. It was such a relief," said Bitancurt, composed after running around the field with his teammates in celebration. "We knew what was on the line."
The drive included a fourth-and-10 completion to Stedman Bailey with six seconds left.
The win means the Mountaineers still have a chance to represent the Big East in a Bowl Championship Series game if Cincinnati beats Connecticut Saturday.
"The way we pulled it out is kind of who this team has become," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I give the guys a bunch of credit for hanging in there and continuing to play and not caving in when they had the opportunity."
For much of the game though, everything that could have gone wrong seemed to for West Virginia.
JaQuez Jenkins picked off quarterback Geno Smith in the fourth quarter, stepping in front of receiver Tavon Austin and ran it 28 to give the Bulls a 27-20 lead with 9:49 to play.
From there, Smith led West Virginia on an 11-play, 77 yard drive ending with Garrison's run to tie it.
The win means the Mountaineers finish the regular season 9-3 overall, 5-2 in the Big East. South Florida (5-7, 1-6) fails to become bowl-eligible with the loss.
"Never do we want to put ourselves in that situation, but as you can see we're just that type of team. We make it a challenge and we always rise up to the occasion," Smith said. "Bitancurt made one of his many clutch kicks and we won the game."
The offense struggled to convert in the first half and turned the ball over twice to start the second half with a fumble and interception.
The defense, which scored on an interception and held the Bulls to 138 yards of total offense in the first half, were steam-rolled in the second giving up a score-tying 15-play, 76-yard drive with 10:01 to play.
They also burned two timeouts on that series, and were left to drive in the game's final minutes without any timeouts.
South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels ran it in from the 1. That tied the score at 20-20, and on the next play Smith threw the pick.
West Virginia was rolling to start the second half, picking up two consecutive first downs before Devon Brown fumbled after making a catch at the 10.
He got stripped and the Bulls drove from their 2 and kicked a 32-yard field goal.
Tavon Austin returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, cutting left and flying down the sideline. That made it 20-10 West Virginia with 10:12 to play. West Virginia turned the ball over on its next series when South Florida intercepted at the 31, and the Bulls countered with a long drive that ended in a 20-yard field goal to make it 20-13.
In the first half, cornerback Pat Miller picked off B.J. Daniels and ran it 52 yards for a touchdown to bail out a poor offensive showing. That gave the Mountaineers a 10-0 lead with 8:20 to play in the half.
Daniels, who was a game-time decision to start, had missed the past two games with a shoulder injury and proved ineffective making several poor throws before the interception.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1959. First Published December 2, 2011 5:00 AM