Actually, we need to start before this drive, because the insanity truly began when the Bulls, facing a 4th and 11 at their own 24-yard line with a little over three minutes to go and nursing a 38-30 lead, decided to punt. A wise move, made far less wise by the fact that they snapped the ball with 19 seconds left on the play clock. The Bearcats had no inclination to take a timeout, so USF just gave them those 19 extra seconds with which to try and mount a game-tying drive.
Now we can start in on the drive itself. Nearly every play was stuffed with howling madness of one form or another, and it must have been great fun to watch if you didn't care who won the game. (We cared a lot, so it was not nearly as fun.) Let's get going.
1st and 10, ball at Cincinnati 29, 3:25 remaining: Out comes
Zach Collaros, who's thrown for 463 yards backup Chazz Anderson??? What the hell is wrong with Collaros? We find out later that his left knee is injured, but you'd have to think it's a major injury to keep him on the bench for what is certainly your last chance. Instead, Anderson takes the snap in a basic spread formation and shows how comfortable he is out there by throwing a frozen rope 10 yards into the Bearcats bench. Incomplete.
2nd and 10, ball at Cincinnati 29, 3:21 remaining: Rod Gilmore, a man who is not often at a loss for words (even though most of them are dumb), can only say "Wow" twice as Joe Tessitore drives home the point that Collaros is not in the game. Meanwhile, the Bulls rush five against a trips right spread formation. Keith McCaskill gets in almost completely unblocked and blows up the pocket. Anderson tries to scramble to the left but Sabbath Joseph cleans it up for a sack and a nine-yard loss.
3rd and 19, ball at Cincinnati 20, 2:47 remaining: The Bulls rush five again. David Bedford gets around the corner on left tackle Sam Griffin and makes Anderson run up in the pocket. He lunges forward and flips a pass to Isaiah Pead just before going down. Pead runs to the right and crosses the 30-yard line before Mistral Raymond tries to wipe his legs out from under him. Instead, Pead balances himself on both hands and his tiptoes, gets back to his feet, and runs for another six yards. If any other part of his body had touched the ground, the play would have been over.
The first-down marker is right at the Cincinnati 39. No part of Pead's body or the ball ever cross the 39-yard line, but the officials give him a first down anyway. The play is not reviewed and is not challenged by USF, who may have wanted to save their last timeout for something more important. Not a bad idea when your defense is on its way to giving up a school-record 590 yards.
We're just getting started here. More after the jump.
1st and 10, ball at Cincinnati 39, 2:12 remaining: Cincinnati comes out in a basic spread and Anderson throws a short curl to Marcus Barnett, who like most of the receivers all night, is given a generous 15-yard cushion by USF defenders (this time it's Quenton Washington). Barnett turns to get out of bounds, but Washington tackles him short of the first down and just before he can get to the sideline.
As soon as the head linesman makes the signal to keep winding the clock, Butch Jones comes racing over (nearly stepping on Barnett) and rips his headset off to yell at the official. For a second it looks like he's going to pull a Derek Dooley and throw it off his head, but he catches himself and puts it around his neck. He is so angry at first that it looks like the words aren't even coming out right. Then he pulls it together and clearly screams that the call is something that rhymes with "trucking fullsit." There are other unprintable words that follow. For roughly ten seconds, it is as if Brian Kelly never left Cincinnati.
2nd and 1, ball at Cincinnati 48, 1:43 remaining: Sam Griffin turnstiles Bedford again, and Pead misses a block as well. Anderson has to run to his left, chased by Bedford, but he finds Armon Binns wide open at the USF 45 for a first down because the Bulls continued to play what looked like the world's first Cover 7 pass defense. (No, I don't mean a cover 7 with two or three deep and the linebackers and corners playing shorter. I mean seven guys deep.) At this point, it hits every Bulls fan: OH GOD NO, THEY'RE IN A PREVENT DEFENSE. Everyone scrambles to find a paper bag to breathe into as the Bearcats hurry up to the line.
1st and 10, ball at USF 44, 1:27 remaining: Sam Barrington blitzes off the left edge, and you're not going to believe this but Griffin is again late to try and pick him up. Anderson has to scramble right. Pead is unaware that Anderson is trying to run and heads out into the right flat for a pass, which lets Patrick Hampton track Anderson down. He and Anthony Hill combine to bring Anderson down for no gain.
This seems like a good place for Cincinnati to call one of their two timeouts. But they don't. Tick... tick... tick... tick... a good 20 seconds come off the clock before the next snap.
2nd and 10, ball at USF 44, 0:59 remaining: Well, actually there isn't a next snap yet, because first there's a false start on guess who? Sam Griffin. So they run all that time off the clock, and then give five yards away on top of that. Oh, and the clock starts again after they march off the penalty, so the Bearcats waste another 11 seconds before the next snap. That's the Butch Jones we remember from earlier in the year -- the guy who couldn't figure out when to go for two and when to kick an extra point. Nice going.
2nd and 15, ball at USF 49, 0:48 remaining: Anderson throws left out of a shotgun spread to a wide-open Binns, who runs a simple comeback route against the Cover 7 and gains 13 yards. This time Cincinnati calls a timeout, but they let another few seconds run off the clock before finally getting one at the 0:36 mark.
During the timeout, we see a shot of Collaros having his left knee wrapped by a medical staffer on the Cincinnati bench. He looks like he just got pulled over by a cop for running a red light. Then we see a shot of Butch Jones talking to his offense, and it hits me. He looks a lot like Jim Mora, Jr. Hey Butch, when do the smelling salts and the Phone-A-Friend lif eline come out?
3rd and 2, ball at USF 36, 0:36 remaining: USF rushes six against a 3 WR, 1 TE shotgun set. Anderson throws it deep for Binns, in single coverage against Washington. The pass is underthrown, but it doesn't matter because Washington is not looking for the ball and he shoves Binns to the ground. An obvious and easy pass interference call, and really a smart one too because Binns might have scored otherwise.
1st and 10, ball at USF 21, 0:30 remaining: The Bearcats go with a trips right shotgun spread. Finally USF changes its coverage and plays bump and run on the receivers. Anderson isn't really pressured, but he runs out of the pocket anyway, towards the trips receivers. Seeing no one to throw to, he scrambles to the USF 16 before getting out of bounds.
2nd and 5, ball at USF 16, 0:23 remaining: The Bulls again rush five and double-team D.J. Woods and Binns, the two outside receivers in Cincinnati's 3 WR-1 TE shotgun set. Anderson throws a bad pass to Binns (running a post) at the goal line, and Mark Joyce narrowly misses a game-ending interception.
3rd and 5, ball at USF 16, 0:18 remaining: Spread formation with the two receivers on the right (short) side of the field much closer than the two on the left. The Bulls line up six defenders across the line of scrimmage and bring them all. Either Woods runs a slant as a hot route or it was already called that way, but he is wide open because Joyce cannot get there in time to cover him. Anderson throws him a perfect pass... and Woods drops it. It would have easily been a first down, and maybe a touchdown. A bullet dodged by USF.
4th and 5, ball at USF 16, 0:15 remaining: Last chance for Cincinnati. Trips left, on the wide side of the field, in a shotgun spread. Bedford and Terrell McClain stunt and both of them beat their man (this is how bad Sam Griffin was on the last drive -- he couldn't even block a defensive tackle). Anderson runs out to the left side, chased by McClain. With no one to cover, Jacquian Williams starts running towards Anderson as well. Anderson stops at about the 22-yard line and Williams begins to bring him down.
At this point Anderson is being carried by Williams the way Doug Flutie was carried around by one of his offensive linemen after he threw the Hail Mary to Gerard Phelan in the Orange Bowl. While being driven to the ground, Anderson wildly flings a pass in the direction of Barnett, trying to come back to the ball in the left flat. It's incomplete, and even if Barnett catches it there's no way he gets a first down. Ballgame.