Four's No Crowd
USF has made room for itself among the Sunshine State elite
Sept. 11, 2007
By Carolyn Braff
Carolyn is an assistant editor and writer for CSTV.com.
With Miami flailing and Florida State failing, there's a new No. 2 team in the
If you ask head coach Jim Leavitt, however, the program has been capable of wins like this for quite some time, but they have plenty to work on before he's satisfied with winning a game like Saturday's.
"If you want to call it an upset, go ahead," Leavitt said.
But he's not going to.
USF's growing number of football accolades speaks for itself, as
Some will argue that they should have cracked the Top 25 this week after disposing of Auburn - but four missed field goals and an inability to convert any of the Tigers' five turnovers into points kept them atop the list of "others receiving votes" and out of the company of the nation's elite. Still, it was not long ago that the Bulls seemed oceans away from that elite grouping, as the program began in a different conference, in a different division, observing the state's Florida-FSU-Miami monopoly from afar.
In 1995, Leavitt was named the first (and remains the only) head coach in USF football history. The Bulls played their first game on Sept. 6, 1997 as an I-AA team. Despite forgetting to bring a kicking tee to the stadium, the program got off to a hot start - the Bulls thrashed Kentucky Wesleyan 80-3 in front of 49,212 fans, their largest home crowd to date.
USF entered the Division I ranks in 2001, and quickly earned their place. In that season, the Bulls upset Pittsburgh on the road, 35-26, and then beat nationally-ranked Bowling Green 29-7 the following season.
In 2005, the program entered the big time by joining the Big East and knocked the conference door down with a 45-14 throttling of No. 9 Louisville. The Bulls have been rolling ever since: they earned their first bowl berth in 2005 and are currently on a four-game winning streak, dating back to a 24-19 victory over No. 7 West Virginia and a bowl win over East Carolina. After topping
Sophomore Matt Grothe played like a big-time quarterback on Saturday, finishing 18-of-27 for 184 yards and a touchdown and adding 31 yards and a second TD on the ground. Grothe won the game for the Bulls when he connected with Jessie Hester for an 18-yard touchdown pass in overtime, two plays after converting a quarterback sneak to keep his team in it. The win was the Bulls' sixth overtime victory in as many attempts.
A team that is clutch in overtime generally reeks of success, and these Bulls sure do smell.
USF clearly has the team ethic to pull off wins, but it turns out they have some players worth remembering, as well. Sophomore defensive end George Selvie is the nation's leader in sacks, with 5.5, and tackles for loss, with 9.5. Sophomore DB Jerome Murphy ranks fifth in the country in kickoff returns, averaging 37 yards per return. Grothe, the 2006 Big East Rookie of the Year, finished last season second in the nation among freshmen in total offense. This season, he ranks 33rd in the country in completions per game, tied with Heisman Trophy candidate Brian Brohm. Pretty fine company for a sophomore QB.
Playing in the Big East, USF automatically has three ranked teams on its schedule in No. 4 West Virginia, No. 9 Louisville and No. 13 Rutgers, but the Bulls don't stop there. They chose to travel to SEC-power
"Our schedule from day one has always been very difficult," Leavitt said. "Trying to keep your head above water has always been the thing to do."
At 2-0 with an off-week ahead of them, USF may be swimming comfortably, but the Mountaineers will certainly be looking for revenge for last year's upset. And
Aside from gaining the recruits his program needs to succeed, which often means selling high school seniors on the merits of the Big East over the ACC and SEC, Leavitt has been quite the recruit himself -
Keep beating Top 25 teams and that recognition should come before the season is out.
"I didn't think [it was an upset]," defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said after Saturday's game. "To me, it's just like
One more might do it, on Sept. 28 when the Mountaineers come back to town.