Leavitt confident he made 'the right calls'
Flying back from Louisville on Sunday, I had the rare joy of time travel, with a 50-minute flight that left Kentucky and landed briefly in Birmingham, where the time was 10 minutes earlier than when we'd left. Along similar lines, I shatter all previous conceptions about the space-time continuum by giving you Wednesday's weekly USF notes when it is still plainly Tuesday afternoon ...
Here’s the situation: You’re trailing late in the first half, you’re inside your opponent’s 10-yard line with six seconds on the clock. Do you take one quick shot at the end zone or play it safe and go for the field goal?
USF coach Jim Leavitt fought over what to do Saturday, initially sending his offense out, then using all three timeouts -- Louisville also used two as well -- before deciding to send Maikon Bonani out for the kick from the Louisville 8-yard line. To oversimplify things in hindsight, he settled for three points and his Bulls wound up losing by four.
"Six seconds, I really wanted to go for the touchdown," Leavitt said Sunday. "I really wanted to. I didn’t let my emotions go (take over) and did the right thing. You’d need at least eight seconds (to feel safe)."
The field goal got USF within eight points, and the Bulls had the lead in the fourth quarter before falling 24-20. A day later, the NFL offered a similar posit, with the Cowboys at the Bucs’ 3 with six seconds left in the half. They went for it, got a quick touchdown to Roy Williams and ended up winning by the four points they gained on the gamble.
"Did they throw a fade?" Leavitt asked. "That’s what we were talking about. The problem is, if that ball’s not in and out of the quarterback’s hands, if we didn’t get it, I would have been second-guessed from here to tomorrow. I wanted points. I didn’t want to do all that work and come away with no points. It was tempting. Very tempting."
Leavitt had another interesting choice to make when USF scored a touchdown to cut Louisville’s lead to 14-12 late in the third quarter. A penalty on the two-point conversion backed the Bulls up to the 18-yard line. Leavitt opted for the extra point to trail 14-13 with a quarter left. How much thought did he give to going for two again?
"Zero," said Leavitt. "It’s a low-percentage shot. There’s a lot of time. ... I made all the right calls. Sometimes I question what I did, and I’m usually pretty open about that."
STILL IN IT: The sheer parity of the Big East -- seven teams have lost in the first 11 league games -- means USF isn’t really out of the picture for a league crown and BCS bowl berth.
If the Bulls win out, if Connecticut beats West Virginia on Saturday and the Pittsburgh-Louisville winner loses another game, USF would be in a crowded tie for first place, from which the highest team in the BCS standings -- likely the Bulls -- would take the league’s BCS berth. Those first five words are still the biggest hurdle in any scenario.
WATCH PARTY: Fans wanting to watch Thursday’s football game at Cincinnati can come to the Sun Dome for the second annual Bulls Frenzy, with the game on the arena’s video screens and appearances by both basketball teams. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and should the Rays force Game 6 in the World Series, there will be updates from Tropicana Field as well.
SOCCER UPDATE: USF’s men, 6-2-1 in Big East play, entered Tuesday’s game at Cincinnati needing one win in their last two to clinch a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The Bulls, who have gotten eight shutouts from keeper Jeff Attinella, a Countryside graduate, would host a quarterfinal Nov. 8 with one more win, and know they’ll host the league’s Final Four on Nov. 14-16.
USF’s women, who opened the season with a 7-3-1 record, lost their final five Big East matches, missing the conference tournament for the second time in three seasons.
THIS AND THAT: Condolences to USF defensive line coach John Hendrick, whose father, also named John, died last week in New Jersey at age 78. He had suffered a stroke last year. ... Just so Bulls fans don’t go drinking just any chocolate milk, USF announced last week that Nesquik had been signed as the "official flavored milk provider" of USF athletics. Football players now get a free bottle -- the strawberry ones go fast -- on their way off the field after practice.