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Live From Syracuse: USF Football Is Back To What It Should Have Always Been

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No matter the result on Saturday, the Bulls are back to being a team you can believe in again.

South Florida v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

(In my mind...) the sky is falling ain't no need to panic
(But oh oh.....) I got a stick and want yo automatic...

Outkast - So Fresh, So Clean

When USF trailed 17-0 vs. Syracuse yesterday, there was plenty of reason to wonder if the Season of Significance would start to fall by the wayside. Quinton Flowers? 2-6 for 12 yards, accurate as a stormtrooper. Guys running the wrong routes. 24 yards total against an abysmal defense until the last play of the first quarter.

Nigel Harris sacks Eric Dungey to set up a 3rd & 15, does a nice job covering a wide receiver in space, but Dungey threads it and Ervin Phillips makes a tremendous catch. Tip your cap.

Ronnie Hoggins on 3rd & 6 gets beat on a route that looked well-covered because he simply got out-toughed by Amba Etta-Tawo. The next play Brisly Estime takes it 47 yards to go up two scores. Early on the secondary looked like they had watched The Notebook on the plane up instead of game film.

It was really bad. But unlike the Bulls of the last five seasons, they also had the talent and drive to do something about it.

The sky is falling ain't no need to panic.

Auggie Sanchez said after the game that he took his fellow starters to task for their shortcomings.

“We kind of came out really flat and that was something we couldn't do,” he said. “So yeah, I was a little ticked off, probably showed it a little bit.” Yelling at Devin Abraham so loudly we could hear his every word from 30 rows up showed more than a little bit.

This wasn’t about ability, it was about effort and focus. These two issues might rear their ugly head later this season, as 12 football games in 13 weeks is a grind. Especially when added to classes, weights, “voluntary” team activities, etc.

But you can bet your ass they won’t be an issue this coming Saturday.

The Bulls teams of Skip Holtz would get in these holes because they didn’t have good enough players, and they knew it. Football requires physical sacrifice to succeed, and why the hell am I going to lay my body out here if we’re gonna lose anyway?

But good football teams do what USF did yesterday. They find their focus, and stick to the plan. Sometimes you’re not going to beat at your best. We’re dealing with teenagers and very young adults here, so asking them to always be professionals when they don’t get paid is a bit silly too.

USF settled in and dominated on both sides of the ball. They weren’t perfect, but they were good enough to win a game they should win easily. And it’s a game they should win easily because they are good.

Go ahead and believe again. This team is legit, no matter the outcome on Saturday. Sure the schedule hasn’t been the best, but they’ve dominated it in a fashion that translates to better competition. The offense is ahead of the defense, but both units can make plays. The special teams look very solid. Barring a rash of injuries or something unforeseen, they will compete for a conference championship this season.

Go ahead and believe, USF. They won’t hurt you again.

—-

Some of us traveling media got lost heading to the “media room” after the game in the poorly-laid-out-as-it-is-unpretty Carrier Dome yesterday. We thought the players and Coach Taggart for the press conference would be walking towards us instead of the other way, and we later ended up meeting them in a hallway. But just after the game we ended up outside the Bulls locker room, and could hear everything that was being said in celebration since the door wasn’t closed.

The Bulls were deservedly excited, and they cheered and sang the fight song. They counted out all 45 points scored as a team. This was clearly a routine they had done many times before. But one call and response stood out before the DJ put on the postgame music.

“Who’s NEXT?”

“FSU!!”

“Who’s NEXT?”

“FSU!!”

“Who’s NEXT?”

“FSU!!”

It’s clear they do this for every game for the next opponent. But man you could tell they were excited to finally have gotten through the trap game they just finished, and are now ready to bring it home in front of 67,000 at home.

Only the redshirt seniors in this group have seen anything close to a sold out Ray Jay. That game in 2012 saw a disproportionate number of FSU fans in the seats, and the atmosphere wasn’t so great because everyone knew the foregone conclusion of an outcome.

Today’s players would have to go down a rabbit hole on Youtube to see what’s waiting for them on Saturday. It’s going to feel like 2007 vs. West Virginia again. Or Kansas in ‘08. Or either of the C.Florida beatings before it became a conference game. The stadium will be electric with an energy that’s been missing from both tenants for quite a long time. It’s the biggest football game in Tampa in years. And these Bulls will have earned the love they’ll see on Saturday.

One of the great moments of my life was walking through the tunnel and onto the field for that ‘07 West Virginia game. I met a girl and was moving to California at the end of the season, so I wanted to make sure I took a memory with me. That memory was “holy shit, we’ve made it.” In just the 11th season of football, we made that stadium sound like it never had before. Just seeing people in the upper deck corner seats 30 minutes before kickoff waiting made me well up a bit.

It was nine years ago, and the hair on my arms still stands up thinking about it. The Pick 6 by Ben Moffitt created a noise I can still hear and don’t ever want to forget. The ground vibrated under my sandaled feet. And on Saturday, the memories of a lifetime will be created for a new generation of Bulls.

Games like this are special because they mean so much to so many. They are events you’ll remember forever. They should be treasured and celebrated.

Before you play gentlemen, take a moment and look up to see seats filled that are so far away from the field you might not have known they existed. Feel the energy around you. You have been a part of bringing this program back from the dead. You’ll have earned the roar you’ll hear when you run out of that tunnel.

Enjoy the appreciation of so many that have waited so long to hear it again. Thank you.