Last week, Jamie posted about USF's poor history in games west of the Mississippi, and lo and behold, the Bulls sucked out a last-minute victory at Nevada and exorcised those demons.
So this week, since the Bulls play Rutgers tonight, I'll take a stab at doing the same with USF's most treacherous opponent, the Thursday night game. Prime Time! National Audience! Ugh, Thursday night has been the killer of momentum, the vanquisher of seasons, the slayer of lofty rankings, and the impetus for hazy, hangover-laden Friday mornings. ("Screw that game! gulp, gulp, what time is it??! I got to work in oh jeez it's three-oh-snore o'clock crashzzzzzzz...)
Whether home or away, favorite or underdog, cold or warm, Leavitt or Holtz, September, October, November or December, USF sucks on Thursday night. Since the Bulls beat FAU 51-10 to open the 2002 season, USF has lost eight straight Thursday games. And it's not a weeknight thing because the Bulls are 5-5 on Fridays and 2-0 on Wednesdays since that win over FAU. It's a purely-distilled Thursday night problem.
In grand Voodoo Five tradition, and in the interest of exorcising ever more demons, let's revel in our misery and go over the saddest rundown short of Sterling Griffin's injury history:
Oct. 18, 2007: Rutgers 30, #2 USF 27 - Don't need to tell you much about this one, but I'll tell you anyway. The Bulls rode into Piscataway 6-0 and ranked #2, and 99 yards in penalties (including a very sketchy penalty that wiped out a blocked FG returned for a touchdown) and a fake-FG-cum TD pass by a third-string QB spelled doom for the Bulls, and started us off on three-game losing streak.
The Killer: With the Bulls down three, a fourth-quarter penalty wiped out a first-down completion on 4th and 22 from Matt Grothe to Amarri Jackson. The Bulls also lead at half-time, were +2 in turnovers and how did we lose this one?
Oct. 2, 2008: Pitt 26, #10 USF 21 - Tell me if you've heard this before: USF goes into a Thursday night game undefeated and highly-ranked, and exit with a crushing loss. LeSean McCoy gashed the #10 USF defense for 142 yards on 28 carries, including two TDs, and the immortal Bill Stull passed for 228. (Note from Jamie: Ah yes, the Tyller Roberts Game.)
The Killer: Right after USF scored to take a 21-20 lead in the 4th, Pitt drives 60 yards on three plays to take the lead for good. Also, a blocked FG and a blown fake FG didn't help.
This game started the Bulls on a streak of five losses in seven games, including...
Oct. 30, 2008: Cincinnati 24, #23 USF 10 - Halloween Eve, and the crowd at Nippert Stadium was rowdy, rattling the #23 Bulls, who were never really in this one. Tony Pike threw for 281 yards and two TDs with a broken arm, as the Bulls lost as a ranked team for the third Thursday game in a row.
The Killer: Matt Grothe throwing three INTs in a god-awful 13-for-31 passing night, maybe his worst game ever.
Oct. 15, 2009: #8 Cincinnati 34, #21 USF 17 - This was the last USF football game I went to before moving out of town, and it may have made me too afraid to ever go back. The Bulls, 5-0 and again ranked in the top 25, get dominated in the second half of what was a back-and-forth game. The 113 yards in penalties probably doomed USF, but...
The Killer was the play after knocking Tony Pike out of the game. The crowd was going ballistic as Pike walks off the field, but Zach Collaros comes off the bench and, on 3rd and 11, runs a draw play for 75 yards(!!) right through the USF defense, for an NBA Jam-style nail in the coffin. Whatever air was in the stadium evaporated into a Total Recall-esque vacuum.
This game started the Bulls on a streak of five losses in seven games (seriously, two years in a row), including...
Nov. 12, 2009: Rutgers 31, #23 USF 0 - Once again the Bulls are ranked in the top 25, but this time, it's different! In that USF couldn't even get on the scoreboard. The less said about this one, the better. Craig James took time out of his busy hooker-murdering, coach-sabotaging schedule to openly mock USF in the broadcast booth during the game.
The Killer: Turnovers, turnovers, these things. Two interceptions by B.J. Daniels, two fumbles and a blocked punt. This might have been USF's worst game ever.
Oct. 14, 2010: #25 West Virginia 20, USF 6 - Skip Holtz didn't change USF's Thursday night fortunes, as he lost is first Thursday nighter for the Bulls. The defense played great, holding the Mountaineers' vaunted spread rushing attack to only 79 yards. But...
The Killer was Daniels throwing three picks and getting sacked four times, setting up easy scores for WVU.
Sept. 29, 2011: Pittsburgh 44, #16 USF 17 - Welcome to the Ray Graham show, a Ray Graham production starring Ray Graham. In a game that was 20-17 at halftime, Pittsburgh's Ray Graham punished the Bulls for 226 yards in another game USF entered ranked and unbeaten.
The Killer: Here is USF's drive summary for the last 20 minutes of the game: turnover on downs, fumble, punt, fumble, fumble, turnover on downs.
This started USF on a stretch where they lost seven of eight, the last of which was...
Dec. 1, 2011: #22 West Virginia 30, USF 27 - Daniels matches Heisman candidate Geno Smith play for play, and kept the offense clicking until...
The Killer: With the score tied 27-27 in the fourth quarter and 3:02 to go, Daniels fumbles near field-goal range. WVU recovers, drives and kicks the winning FG, and the Bulls finish outside of bowl eligibility for the first time since 2004