Bulls-Huskies: USF's closest loss ever?

6

December

I had the "USF wins" game story written.

I complain about night kickoffs on here a lot, and the only reason is that I have to have a finished early-edition story ready to send the instant the game ends. The Times asks me to send the bottom two-thirds of the story -- the "running," if you will -- at the end of the third quarter, then sending the top as the game ends.

So with a close game on a tight deadline, you have to prepare for both scenarios. When B.J. Daniels led USF to a second go-ahead touchdown with 40 seconds left, I started cleaning up a story to be ready to file:

            EAST HARTFORD , Ct. – In the snow, in the cold, on the road, in all the things that have been trouble for USF, the Bulls found a way to win.

But as soon as the Huskies started their drive at their 44, perhaps within 25 yards of a reasonable field goal with the wind at their backs, I had to start writing the other top -- USF losing on a last-second field goal.

USF hasn't had a game that close in literally one year, since losing 13-7 at West Virginia on Dec. 6 last year. The first 11 games this season were all decided by 10 or more points. That's a stark contrast to last season, when USF had seven games decided by eight points or less.

That, to me, was what separated this game from USF's other four losses, which had been long since decided when the final seconds ticked away. Those other losses were all by at least 17 points, so they were painful for their severity, but didn't leave players with that haunting realization that literally one play here or there might have led to victory, instead of defeat.

My questions now are of a historical nature -- is this the first time the Bulls have gained the lead and lost it in the final minute of a game? Has there been a USF game with four lead changes in the final nine minutes? USF has been to overtime and double overtime of course, but for a game decided in regulation, this might be the closest finish ever. The Bulls' history is still short enough that you can comb through 13 years of wins and losses and check things like that, so I'll have those answers this afternoon. If my connecting flight home from Philadelphia had wireless, I'd have the research done by the time we hit the tarmac in Tampa. (And yes, it's entirely normal to eat a cheesesteak, even an airport cheesesteak, at 9 a.m. if you're from Philly.)

Not sure exactly when USF will learn its bowl pairing today -- supposedly the Meineke folks aren't meeting until noon to make their pick, and then the rest should fall in line pretty quickly. My instinct is that USF -- having lost five of seven games and lost to all the teams it's competing with for bowl positioning -- will get shipped to Toronto for the International Bowl on Jan. 2.

If there's a benefit in that with a young team, it's that Jim Leavitt gets 16 practices in preparation for the game -- if the Bulls go to St. Petersburg, they'd probably have close to half that before their game. Knowing the Bulls wouldn't bring many fans to Toronto, costing USF $300,000 or more in unsold tickets, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Toronto trading USF to another bowl. Again, it still could be St. Petersburg or Birmingham for all we know -- we're all still guessing until the official word comes out this afternoon ...

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 7:40pm]

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