Report: USF bound for Miami Beach Bowl
As widely expected, USF's first bowl trip in five years will be a four-hour trek to South Beach.
ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported Thursday the Bulls will play in the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 21, with Western Kentucky (10-2) the likely opponent. ESPN owns the broadcast rights to the game, set for Dec. 21 at 2:30 p.m. in Marlins Park.
Pairings for non-New Year's Six bowl games formally will be announced Sunday afternoon on ESPN. If USF's reported destination and foe hold true, the game will represent a surreal story line for Bulls coach Willie Taggart, a four-year starting quarterback for WKU who coached the Hilltoppers the three seasons (2010-12) prior to his arrival at USF.
"That would be pretty cool. That would be interesting," Taggart said after the Bulls' practice Thursday morning. "You guys would have a lot to write about and talk about. They're well coached and a really good football team."
USF (8-4), which received votes in the most recent Associated Press rankings, also has been widely projected to land in the Dec. 26 St. Petersburg Bowl, though it is believed Bulls coaches and administrators wanted the players to enjoy a bona fide bowl trip.
"I tell you what, I'll go anywhere," said senior LG Thor Jozwiak, a second-team pick on the coaches All-American Athletic Conference squad. "I don't even know the projections, but hey man, we're in a bowl game, bottom line."
BANNER (AND BITTERSWEET) DAY: A day after a program-record eight players were named to the coaches All-AAC squad, Taggart and at least two of his players suggested the number should've been a tad higher.
Conference rushing leader Marlon Mack -- who just completed his second consecutive 1,000-yard season -- and CB Deatrick Nichols (four interceptions) made the first team, with six others earning second-team honors.
"It is an honor, man," said Mack, one of only two players in USF history to earn first-team all-conference honors twice. "I've just got to thank my line once again. ... Without those guys blocking for me good, I probably wouldn't have (first-team honors) again."
Among those not selected: QB Quinton Flowers (USF-record 31 total TDs) and husky Jamie Byrd (80 tackles, three INTs, four pass breakups).
"(Flowers) came out and did what Coach T knew he was gonna do and I feel like he needed a spot," Mack said. "But you can't get 'em all in there."
Taggart was equally diplomatic.
"Those (eight) guys did something," he said. "That's something we always talk about: We're not gonna blame anyone for us not being on there, not gonna make excuses, we've got to go out and do something. And sure enough, all those guys deserved to be on there, and a couple of other guys probably deserved to be on there as well."
ODDS AND ENDS: USF enters the bowl season fifth in the AAC in total offense (428.7 ypg) and third in total defense (361.2 ypg). ... Taggart was asked whether the hirings of Scott Frost (at UCF) and Mark Richt (at Miami) will make in-state recruiting more difficult. "I don't think any tougher than what it's been before," he said. "You're not only recruiting against those two, you've got everybody in the country that's coming down here and recruiting and getting guys out." ... Thanks primarily to Rodney Adams' 97-yard TD return at Navy, USF finished the regular season first in the AAC in kick returns (28.2-yard average). ... Jozwiak, known for his garish (and sometimes colorful) mohawk, arrived at the first bowl practice with a fully-shaven pate. "I'm getting married in February," he said, "so I needed to grow somewhat of a decent haircut for that wedding date."
AUDIBLE: "With the season we had, I'm sure someone will come in here trying to get our guys, and we've got to fend them off as well. But that's part of the business and we'll see how it goes." -- Taggart, when asked if he expected schools with coaching/staff vacancies to pursue any of his assistants