Bulls' Sims, McCaskill celebrate rare scores
TAMPA -- Jake Sims had never scored a touchdown, anywhere, at any level in his football career, so you can imagine the excitement when USF's senior tackle saw a loose ball in the end zone when Mo Plancher fumbled in the fourth quarter.
"It's been in my dreams for a while. It's still pretty surreal," said Sims, the first offensive lineman to score a touchdown in USF history after getting the winning margin in the Bulls' 28-27 win against Rutgers. "I was in the right place at the right time. I see a fumble, I've got to get on top of it. I'm not giving that ball up for anything."
Sims wasn't the only unlikely hero in the end zone in the Bulls' win -- USF's rally started late in the third quarter, when junior defensive tackle Keith McCaskill tackled Rutgers running back Kordell Young for a safety, cutting the Scarlet Knights' lead to 24-22.
"This is my first ever, so this is the most exciting thing in my life," said McCaskill. "It was great momentum for us. It seemed like it was a momentum boost for the offense, too. They did their job, drained the clock down just enough for us to pull this victory off."
BOWLS IN TOWN: With a Wednesday night audience all to itself, USF used the Rutgers game as its annual invitation to bowl representatives, with a large group of 11 blazer-clad officials meeting with local leaders and Bulls administrators.
All four BCS bowl games were in attendance -- the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange -- as well as both local bowls in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg and the Outback Bowl. The complete Big East bowl lineup -- the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, the Birmingham Bowl, the Birmingham Bowl and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis -- was also there to look at two teams that came in with four wins each, in position to be bowl-eligible with a strong finish.
The Pinstripe Bowl representative didn't need a tour around Tampa -- it was former Yankees star and USF volunteer assistant Tino Martinez, who was on the sidelines with Bulls baseball coach Lelo Prado before the game. The new bowl, played at Yankee Stadium, will be Dec. 30 with teams from the Big East and Big 12.
PAYING TRIBUTE: USF’s players wore a red “52” decal on the backs of their helmets in tribute to Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, who injured his neck making a tackle in a game last month and was left paralyzed from the neck down. Two USF senior captains – cornerback Mistral Raymond and center Sampson Genus – delivered recorded messages to LeGrand on the video screens at Raymond James Stadium.
GOING STRONG: Sophomore kicker Maikon Bonani continued his consistent kicking, connecting on a 48-yard field goal, his longest of the season and 1 yard short of his career high, set in 2008. Bonani added a 20-yard field goal in the third quarter to improve to 8-for-9 on the season since taking over for senior Eric Schwartz.
HOMECOMING: Rutgers freshman receiver Jeremy Deering, a Leto graduate, lined up several times in the wildcat formation, including a 15-yard run to the 1-yard line – initially ruled a touchdown until replay overturned the call – which set up a touchdown and 24-17 lead in the third quarter. He led Rutgers with 69 rushing yards on nine attempts.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.