I dragged my feet writing about this game. Not because I find it too traumatic to watch, or that it triggers me, or anything like that. I just feel like we’ve written so much about this game and shared just about every feeling we have that there isn’t much else to say. The two losses from the 2007 regular season that follow this one (UConn and Cincinnati) are much more interesting to me. So if it seems like I’m going through the motions here, well, I am.
Also, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t think this was the worst loss of the season. It was a semi-fluky loss, on a short week, on the road, against a quality opponent. Those losses happen to just about everyone. I mean, last year Clemson lost at home to freakin’ Pitt! And they still won the national title! It hurt at the time, but I don’t get why everyone still martyrs themselves over this game.
I did find a few things to talk about, so let’s have it.
Now I am become Craig James, destroyer of USF
There are plenty of reasons not to like Craig James. To this day he pretends like he wasn’t on the payroll at SMU. He got Mike Leach fired from Texas Tech and hired a PR firm to run interference for him. He was such a failed, paint-by-numbers wannabe hand puppet of a politician that he couldn’t even get 5% of the vote in a Texas primary, where only the kookiest and meanest Republicans show up to the polls.
And James was a smug analyst for ESPN who got to watch USF play some of their absolute worst football. He was in the booth for nine USF games from 2004 to 2011. The Bulls won the first time he was assigned to their game, at UAB in 2004. They lost all the others, including some real embarrassments.
- The 31-0 shutout at Rutgers in 2009, probably the most disgraceful loss of Jim Leavitt’s entire tenure
- The 20-6 loss at West Virginia in 2010 where USF could have played for at least 10 quarters and not scored a touchdown
- The 44-17 debacle at Pitt in 2011
- The 30-27 loss against West Virginia that year to seal bowl ineligibility, punctuated by Todd Fitch calling about 12 straight fades at the goal line as the announce crew openly mocked him
I live in constant fear of Craig James getting another analyst job and being assigned to a big USF football game in the future.
Yes, it was illegal forward propulsion, get over it already
Jeremy Ito had a field goal blocked late in the second quarter. By hook and by crook, the Bulls returned it for a touchdown to take an apparent 24-10 lead. However, it was called back for an illegal propulsion penalty on Tyrone McKenzie. USF fans cling to this penalty call like it was the biggest travesty in the history of football, like the fate of the entire program was altered because of it.
ARE YOU SERIOUS LOOK AT TYRONE MCKENZIE HE IS CLEARLY THROWING THE DAMN BALL FORWARD HE EVEN SWINGS HIS ARM BACK BEFORE THROWING IT SO IT WILL GO FURTHER.
That wasn’t the only sketchy fumble on the return. Here’s Mike Jenkins pretty blatantly Holy Roller-ing the ball forward for McKenzie to recover. This was somehow not flagged.
I have to admire USF’s hustle here. If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’. But this was obvious cheatin’. Besides, even after the penalty the Bulls still got the ball in Rutgers territory and didn’t turn it into any points. If they score on that drive and go up by 10 or 14 points, the second half could be much different.
Bottom line, if you’re going to get all huffy about John McDaid ruining a USF football game, I suggest using the Houston game in 2013 as your Exhibit A. That was some shit.
So what made this game so fluky?
Well, there were parts of the game that were definitely not fluky. The extremely problematic Ray Rice ran for 189 yards. Delbert Alvarado missed a couple of field goals. Matt Grothe also took a career-high seven sacks. USF had only allowed eight sacks up to this point in the season. In fact, the Bulls only allowed 28 sacks all year. This game was one-quarter of the total. What made the sacks worse is how ill-timed they generally were. There were lots of sacks on second down for big losses that made converting third downs nearly impossible. (The Bulls were 2 for 14 on third down.)
Then there was some crazy stuff. Like Tiquan Underwood getting loose for a 69-yard touchdown on a catch and run following some shockingly bad tackling from the USF defense. And Rutgers converting not one but two trick plays on special teams. (The Bulls turned out to be really vulnerable to these plays — we’ll see another really damaging trick play when we get to the Cincinnati game.) Ito, who kicked and punted, threw for a first down on a fake punt early on. Then in the third quarter, the Scarlet Knights faked a field goal and it went for a touchdown to put Rutgers up 27-17.
Did Amarri Jackson, in fact, push off?
Let’s set the scene again, as if you don’t remember. 4th and 22 on USF’s final attempt to tie the game. Grothe throws deep for Amarri Jackson down the right sideline, who miraculously comes down with the ball for a 32-yard gain. But hold on, there are two flags. Jackson has pushed off, and the play doesn’t count. Now facing an absurd 4th and 37, Grothe heaves a desperation pass down the field and it gets intercepted.
I tend to think that yes, Jackson did push off. Maybe the Rutgers defensive back helped sell the call and he fell over a little bit too easily, but Amarri extended his arms out while he was jostling for position. Receivers simply are not allowed to do that. Perhaps this instance was a bit soft and you could argue that the best course of action when the game is on the line is to let them play, but doing that is going to get flagged every time. Amarri Jackson did not push off.
Next time: I finally watch the second half of USF-UConn, a game that sucked a lot harder than this one. Also, a meek defense of fall weddings, because I had one.