Bulls, Yankees, Phils and more
Craziness. That's all I can say about Friday night's sellout and historic win for USF over No. 5 West Virginia. There's a cool feeling when you're driving home from a game and think you might have covered the one game in college football that everyone is talking about. This was one of those games.
(I'll digress for a second to say I'm a Philadelphia native and cannot be happier about the Phils being a game up with two to play. Phils haven't made the playoffs since my freshman year in college, so it's just nice to think about.)
I'm capping myself at a half-hour so I can get some sleep, but lots to talk about ... (first, check out the Times' really cool video highlights of fans from the game. Really neat to see how proud Ben Moffitt is, celebrating after the game with his son Trevor.)
-- I think my follow story for Sunday is going to be on how USF's defense has beaten two ranked opponents largely on its ability to catch opposing passes, something they didn't do in the past. Seeing both of Ben Moffitt's interceptions, two sure-handed grabs, it's amazing he went his first three seasons without a pick.
-- As good as the defense has been, it'd be hard for an offense to do less with turnovers than USF has in its two wins against ranked teams. Against Auburn? Five turnovers forced, converted to zero points. Against West Virginia? Ben Moffitt took his interception to the end zone for a touchdown; the other five turnovers were converted to ... zero points. Can't even point to missed field goals: this was just three punts and two interceptions. In their five possessions after turnovers, USF totaled 37 yards.
-- Can't say enough about USF's opening drive of the second half. Up 14-3 but needing to get momentum, the Bulls went 74 yards in 13 plays. They went for it on fourth-and-inches from their own 35, converting on a Matt Grothe keeper. They converted a third-and-7 on another Grothe run, then got a huge 19-yard touchdown from Jamar Taylor, who had a big night with a team-high 58 yards.
-- Having said that: The rest of the second half? Five drives, 15 total yards. Grothe got four second-half first downs with his feet, but didn't have much in the air: 3-for-7 for 20 yards. Most important thing was zero turnovers in the second half, making it hard for West Virginia to get its points.
-- Nate Allen is a turnover magnet. Got another end-zone interception, killing a West Virginia drive, and took a fumble recovery and returned it 44 yards. Also led the team with 11 tackles. Not a bad first month as a college starter. ...
-- I think if Rich Rodriguez could do it all over again, he might give Noel Devine more than four touches on offense. He had more on one carry than Pat White totaled on his nine carries. He also had two kickoff returns, but I was surprised not to see him utilized more creatively. Oh, and maybe he shouldn't have made the Yankees comment. That one motivated the Bulls -- except maybe Larry Antonucci -- in a big way.
-- Fun to see Jon Gruden and Joey Galloway introduce USF's starting lineups. Galloway on corners Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams: "Expect to see these athletes on Sundays next season." I can understand folks complaining because it could have been a USF celebrity like Lee Roy Selmon, but I thought it illustrated the way Tampa has embraced the Bulls' success.
-- Thought it was cool USF opened the game with an unbalanced line, with starting tackles Walt Walker and Marc Dile both lined up on the left side and Cedric Hill basically as the right tackle. Hill let his end upfield and left Mike Ford open to run 35 yards around the right side. The rest of the night for Ford? Four carries for 7 yards: nothing gets you in Jim Leavitt's doghouse faster than a fumble. (OK, maybe a fumble, then pulling out a Sharpie, but that's it.)
-- Statistically, West Virginia had everything but the turnovers. They ran 28 more offensive plays than USF. Consider this: West Virginia's first seven drives netted 62 yards. Their next seven netted 374 yards, with no three-and-outs in that span. For them to have the ball for 19:03 in the first half and be down 14-3 at the half is what the math folks would call an anomaly.
-- One thing I'll warn USF about for Florida Atlantic next week: turnovers. USF had four tonight, and FAU ranks second nationally in turnover margin, plus-13 in four games. FAU, by the way, has sold about 10,000 tickets for the USF game, so the Bulls will go from their biggest home crowd to likely their smallest home crowd since UAB on a rainy weeknight in 2004. Yes, FAU beat Minnesota, but Minnesota has the worst defense in I-A football. Worst.
-- How high does USF go in the polls? My guess is No. 12, moving far enough to slide ahead of a one-loss West Virginia team and the Cal-Oregon loser. Shouldn't go higher unless there are upsets or really unimpressive wins from the five teams directly ahead of USF.
Thoughts? Celebration stories? Don't make me check the overnight arrest reports ...