Leavitt: WKU 'light years ahead' of USF's start
We know that USF coach Jim Leavitt will embellish the strengths of any upcoming opponent -- after winning 40-7 against Wofford, he reminded the media that he'd told them "it would be a 60-minute ballgame." Wofford, of course, didn't take an offensive snap deeper than USF's 44-yard line in the second half, but yes, the game did take the full 60 minutes to complete.
So on Monday, during the Big East's weekly coaches teleconference, a reporter covering Western Kentucky asked Leavitt what advice he would give Western Kentucky and how the Hilltoppers could follow USF's extraordinary model of progress, joining Division I-A in their fifth season and joining a BCS conference four years later. Western Kentucky, of course, is in its 91st season of football and just joined Division I-A this season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
"Well, 10-12 years ago, we were still in trailers and trying to figure out how to get some sprinkler systems working," Leavitt said. "They've got their on-campus stadium, they play an awfully good football. We're 2-2 against them, played against them four times. They're light years ahead of where that's at. He doesn't need any advice from me, I promise you."
He's being a little kind. Never mind that 10 years ago, while in those trailers with three road wins in its history, USF got a 21-6 win at Western Kentucky in that same on-campus stadium, avenging losses in the Bulls' first two seasons.
L.T. Smith Stadium has gotten a nice renovation in the past year and its capacity has increased to 22,113, but the Hilltoppers don't look to be selling it out Saturday. WKU's sports information department said Monday that "about 5,000 tickets" remain for the USF game.
Since joining the Big East in 2005, the Bulls have played to announced crowds of less than 20,000 fans just twice -- at Florida International last year (16,717) and at Cincinnati in 2006 (15,889). The smallest crowd USF has played to in the past decade? That 1999 game at Western Kentucky, which drew an announced 7,500 fans.
Leavitt did astutely point out that Western Kentucky did force turnovers from Tennessee in the Vols' first two possessions last week. He did not mention what the score was when the Hilltoppers first picked up a first down not from a Tennessee penalty -- that was midway through the third quarter, as they trailed 35-0 on the way to a 63-7 loss.