And now the most famous game, and probably the most famous sporting event, in USF history. Bulls 21, Mountaineers 13, in front of the first sellout crowd ever for a USF football game.
For such a huge game, I didn’t feel the same sense of nervousness that I had during the Auburn game. We already knew USF could win, because they had gone to Morgantown the year before and beaten West Virginia 24-19. It was just a good matchup with their speed and skill on defense. They seemed to have the answer for Pat White, Steve Slaton, and that dynamic WVU offense.
We’ve talked about this game on the blog several times. Collin has covered the scramble behind the scenes to try and get on top of the wave and how he felt seeing the huge crowd and hearing the roar after Ben Moffitt’s opening pick-six. I’m going to try and cover some of the other stuff that happened that night.
West Virginia thought they were the Yankees
In the week leading up to the game, West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez stupidly tossed some gasoline on the fire by saying:
“I’ve talked to our team about this. I told them, ‘You’re highly ranked and when you go to play a game somewhere people are going to sell out the stadium.’ It’s like the Yankees. Every time they go somewhere they get a big crowd. Every time we go somewhere, we’re selling out stadiums or helping them sell out,” he said.
Then a few of the West Virginia players took it a step further and wore New York Yankees caps when they came off the bus at the stadium on game day. That got back to the USF players and coaches, too. After the game, some of the Bulls remembered.
“Last time I checked,” Matt Grothe said, “the Yankees haven’t won a World Series in a while.”
Anyway, there were West Virginia fans who made the trip, but this wasn’t an FSU situation where there was hardly any home-field advantage. The crowd split was probably 90-10 USF fans.
USF’s sky-high emotions
This has to be the most hyped USF has ever been for a football game. The team was at an insane emotional pitch. Right before the Bulls came on the field, ESPN’s Rob Stone was doing a sideline report and talking about what Jim Leavitt was doing during warmups, and… well, watch.
West Virginia didn’t usually go for that kind of thing, but they were determined to match that energy. In fact, both teams were so geeked up for this game and flying around so much that it made the first half really sloppy.
Not that there weren’t some moments of beauty. How about Tyrone McKenzie’s form tackle on Slaton to force a fumble?
There was also Jerome Murphy’s open-field tackle on Brandon Hogan, which Nate Allen collected on the bounce and almost housed.
And of course…
One interesting note about Mitchell’s TD. During this game, ESPN2 had a camera in the replay booth and they miked up the replay officials. They can be heard talking about how they couldn’t get a replay of the angle right along the sideline where Mitchell just barely kept his feet inside the white line. Could this have been overruled if the booth could see that replay? You know what, let’s not think about this any more.
War Flamingo was stupid, don’t @ me
OK, I gotta go in on this for a minute. So USF went to Auburn, and the visiting fans got to see Auburn’s War Eagle pregame tradition. They bring a bald eagle out and it circles the stadium and returns to the trainer’s perch (well, most of the time). That led to the dumbest of all possible outcomes — people trying to force a tradition. That’s how you ended up with a few people in the student section toting around inflatable flamingos trying to make War Flamingo happen. It was so stupid. Thankfully I don’t think this “tradition” even made it to the next home game. War Flamingo was a dark moment in USF fandom. We must not forget lest it happen again.
Check out the kid in the student section who decided to celebrate Jamar Taylor’s third-quarter touchdown by showering everyone around him with his drink.
Another play you’ve seen a hundred times. In fact, we just used this six weeks ago. This time, ignore the action and just look at ESPN’s cameras vibrating and the feedback in the audio as the noise spiked the microphone levels.
Collin has written about being on the field when Ben Moffitt scored. How the ground shook under him and the raw emotion that he felt in that moment. It was definitely the loudest moment in the history of that stadium. I was at a Monday Night Football game a long time ago with a moment that came close, and I got my version of Collin’s moment last year when Rodney Adams scored on the first play of the FSU game. Neither of those, however, were quite at the same level as the Moffitt pick-six. I’m not sure it can ever be topped.
Jarrett Brown: scarier than Pat White?
USF matched up really well with West Virginia’s offense, but that changed a little bit when Pat White left the game with an ankle injury just before halftime. Jarrett Brown wasn’t quite as fast, but he was fast enough, and more importantly he was a lot bigger and harder to tackle. The Mountaineer offense actually got a bit smoother when he was in there. Fortunately his inexperience prevented them from making a comeback. He threw a terrible interception at the goal line under pressure from Moffitt, and he misfired on quite a few passes, including the one that ended the game.
Searching for Singlet Guy
For better or worse, this might be the most iconic photo in USF football history.
This photo has everything. The guy in a “Grothe > Tebow” shirt giving the camera the shocker. Students aimlessly wandering around the field on their phones, perhaps foreshadowing how many students would take in USF games in 2017. A sheriff’s deputy defending the goal post after they hastily lowered it as the Bulls offense took a knee. And of course, Singlet Guy.
We tried to find him and ask about this picture, and how he came to wear a singlet to football games. He commented here once, and we sent him an email to try and track him down. No luck. All we know is he played on USF’s club rugby team, and this wasn’t the first time he wore the singlet.
Oh hell yeah, it’s here and it’s majestic.
Let’s look at that from another angle.
And get out of here with your bad decisions joke, Rece. What are you, the cops.
Coming up next time: The biggest letdown game in USF history, until Grothe and Ben Williams ride to the rescue.