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USF 37, Kansas 34: Ten thoughts ...



Great, great game. Amazing game. Is it the best game I've covered at USF? I think it has to be. As columnist Gary Shelton, sitting next to me, pointed out, the Bulls' standard in big games is to jump out to a crazy lead early, then hold off a late challenge to win.

This was so much more -- down 20-3 just before halftime, then just as inexplicably, up 34-20 and totally dominating. That's two ridiculous swings in momentum. Then, just as I've got my story figured out and ready to file, the defense lets a 14-point fourth-quarter lead vanish. And somehow, again, USF finds a way to regroup, make a big play on defense and get the win late.

Like the UCF game, so much happened so late and right on deadline that it's all a blur; I'm happy if I got the score and the dateline right. I'm going to try to get to bed by 2:30, so here are 10 quick thoughts:

-- Undervalued play of the night: Cedric Hill falling on a Matt Grothe fumble on USF's 12-yard line in the fourth quarter. Kansas would wind up scoring the tying touchdown shortly after anyway, but USF won Friday because they didn't commit a turnover. Grothe loses a fumble inside his 20, and Hill happens to be in the right place to avoid an even bigger shift in momentum. It's the tiny things like that play that eventually add up to a 3-point victory.

-- If you'd told me going in that Mike Ford and Ben Williams would combine for 2 yards, that USF wouldn't force a turnover for 59 minutes, that the Bulls would be down 17 in the second quarter, that two Kansas receivers would combine for 291 yards, that the Jayhawks would convert 10 third downs ... I don't think I'd see USF celebrating after the game. Greg Gregory talks about how big games come down to which team has more in the tank at the end of the game, which one can pull out the last big play, and that's what it took for USF to win.

-- For the second week in a row, you had some real questionable calls with clock management in the final minute. USF has the ball at the 27-yard line with time outs to burn, runs one play for a yard, then lets the clock run down to two seconds. You've got a freshman kicker playing in his first game, and you don't want to chip a few yards off his kick? They didn't do Maikon Bonani any favors there, lining him up for a kick 9 yards longer than any field goal he'd made in college. Wally Burnham said the kid had ice in his veins. I liked that Delbert Alvarado got to pin a punt at the Kansas 7 in the last few minutes. We'll write a lot more about Bonani in the next few days.

-- Toughest call in the game? I think it was when USF had the ball on Kansas' 36-yard line, facing a fourth-and-4 in a tie game with 2:30 to go. Do you go for it? Do you try a 53-yard field goal? Do you punt and trust the same defense that's given up two touchdowns in that very quarter? USF chose to punt, but let the clock run down -- aw, shucks -- for a delay of game penalty that backed them up to the 41, making it much easier for Delbert Alvarado to drop a kick deep in Kansas territory. And Kansas, for whatever reason, accepts the penalty, and as a result, Alvarado hits a punt that bounces on the 2 and lands on the 7 -- great, great situational punt. Tough call, but it somehow paid off for USF ...

-- I think the best moment -- before the final kick, of course -- was when Taurus Johnson had the wild juggling catch on his back in the end zone, initially ruled an incomplete pass. When the officials announced that the play was being reviewed, Matt Grothe celebrated more enthusiastically than you see off most touchdowns -- he pumped his fist, jumped up and down, really got the students on that end going loud, because he was so confident that Johnson had made the catch. Sure enough, replay showed that Johnson pulled the ball in a split-second before his back slid out the back of the end zone. Johnson's had a great start to the season and is on pace to finish as USF's all-time leader in career receiving yards.

-- Key to USF winning in regulation? It might be the horrible tackling on a third-and-8 play where Kansas' Angus Quigley ran 20 yards to get to the Kansas 40 with 0:41 left. It gave Kansas reason to think they could pick up 25 yards and get off a potential game-winning field goal, which is why Todd Reesing -- who never throws interceptions -- threw up a floater across the middle that Nate Allen was happy to track down. If Quigley doesn't get that first down, Kansas probably punts it deep into USF territory and the teams go to overtime ...

-- Can't remember a game with more hard hitting from USF defenders. Tyller Roberts had at least three big pops on plays, Brouce Mompremier sent a Kansas running back flying out of bounds once, and Jerome Murphy destroyed receiver Kerry Meier, then put a big hit on Reesing in the final minute. I thought Meier, a former quarterback, showed great hands in catching 11 balls for 120 yards.

-- After two weeks of night games with crazy twists in the fourth quarter, I'm frankly very happy to see a 5 p.m. kickoff for what should be a lopsided win at Florida International. Won't be nearly as good a story, as significant a win, but after two of these, a simple non-deadline game story sounds fine to me ...

-- One thing I want to research Saturday: Is this the biggest comeback in USF history? There's 82 wins to check on going back to 1997, and it might already be written by somebody with better handy notes that I have, but I can't imagine the Bulls have many games where they've battled back from 17 down to win.

-- From where we sit in the press box at Raymond James, you really can't tell how close a field goal is. So it wasn't until I watched the replay just now that I see just how close Bonani came, hooking it just inside the right upright on the game-winning kick. Jim Leavitt, interviewed live on the field after the win, on if he said anything to Bonani before the kick: "I didn't. I wouldn't know what to tell him." Kansas, with Reesing and that defense, looks like a very solid team, so as impressive as this win is now for USF, it might hold up even better a few months down the road.

Thoughts? Comments? We'll come back with more in the morning ...

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:52pm]


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