Coldest ever? USF focused on game, not weather
TAMPA -- USF football could be playing in the coldest temperatures in its history Friday night at Cincinnati, but if you ask senior tackle Mark Popek, any time spent worrying about the cold or bundling up with extra clothes is time distracted from the Bulls' real focus.
"If I was a coach, I wouldn't allow any long sleeves or anything like that," said Popek, a Plant City graduate who returned to the starting lineup Saturday after missing time with an ankle injury. "I think guys who focus too much on the weather aren't focused on the game. I actually enjoy it. It's a lot colder, but I think it's way more fun. The UConn game three years ago is probably my favorite."
Many USF seniors pointed to USF's 2009 loss at Connecticut as their coldest football memory -- the temperature at kickoff was 34 degrees, and it's one of two games in Bulls history played during falling snow. The other -- a loss at West Virginia in December 2008 -- was also in snow, with the coldest kickoff temperature ever for a USF game at 29 degrees. The low for Cincinnati on Friday night is projected to be 26 degrees.
"Miserable, but you've got to love it," said senior running back Demetris Murray, who doesn't wear long sleeves in the cold because his high school didn't allow it, even during cold games in the Atlanta, Ga., suburb of Buford. "I think it's a mindset. If you go in with the mindset that I'm going up there to take care of business and I'm going to do whatever it takes to win, then the cold shouldn't bother you."
There may be some adjustment for the Bearcats as well -- Friday's low is 20 degrees colder than Thursday's is expected to be. USF is 1-3 all-time in games where the kickoff temperature is below 40 degrees, with the lone win coming in November 2007 in a 48-37 win at Pittsburgh.
USF coach Skip Holtz, who played in cold weather at Notre Dame and had his first head coaching job in the cold of Connecticut, said he won't wear anything special and doesn't expect his assistants to be layered up "like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man." He said he expects some of his players to not even notice the cold, but said others with less experience could be affected by it.
"There are going to be others that may have on turtlenecks. I just hope nobody comes out in a scarf," Holtz said. "I think it's a mental thing, a toughness thing. Both teams have to play in it. It's still about finding a way to get the win. I will not be bundled up with gloves and a hat and a big parka. My focus is on the game and what we have to get done there."