Monday, July 16, 2018
Colleges

USF Bulls welcome return of chip on the shoulder after upset loss

By Joey Knight

TAMPA — Naturally, the minutes and hours after USF’s first loss of 2017 featured excruciation in bulk. The wounds caused by Houston’s surreal winning drive were fresh and festering.

The Cougars’ 50-yard kick return? Brutal. Their fourth-and-24 conversion? Back-breaking. A 20-yard touchdown scramble with 11 seconds to go? Ball game.

"I’ve never seen a team so down," coach Charlie Strong said of his USF squad.

Down, but hardly out.

For all the short-term damage that the 28-24 loss at home last week did to the Bulls’ psyche, it barely dented their season.

And it just might have recharged their spirit.

"It gave us back our chip (on the shoulder) and gave us back that underdog vibe," senior nickel back Deatrick Nichols said.

The unranked Bulls (7-1, 4-1 AAC) arrive in East Hartford, Conn., today with every significant goal still in play. They still control their own destiny in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division and appear destined for a New Year’s Six bowl berth if they win out.

The College Football Playoff selection committee’s top-ranked Group of Five conference champion earns that New Year’s Six bid. No. 18 UCF (whom the Bulls play Nov. 24) and No. 23 Memphis (the likely AAC West champ) are the only Group of Five teams ranked.

Take care of business against UConn (3-5, 2-3) and Tulsa (at home Nov. 16), win in Orlando on Black Friday (Nov. 24), prevail in the AAC title game, and the Bulls seem like a Peach Bowl lock.

"The best thing we have going now is it’s still there in front of us," Strong said.

The second-best thing? The Bulls now seem refocused and refueled, not to mention a little dissed.

"After you lose, you have to refocus," senior tailback Darius Tice said.

"You have to look back and see like, ‘Okay, what went wrong?’ And it definitely makes you want to go out there and prove it to the world, and I’d say just prove it to each other. Prove it to the teammates just to know like, ‘We got this, we’ve got everything under control.’?"

Of course, proving something to the world helps when disrespect is palpable.

That underdog vibe Nichols mentions? There’s a tangible component to it now.

Instead of having to manufacture a no-respect narrative, Strong can point directly to the Associated Press and CFP rankings. USF was 17th in the AP poll before dropping out of the top 25 after the loss to Houston.

It also didn’t appear in the initial CFP rankings released Tuesday.

"You can use it as fuel," Strong said.

"It’s there, so it’s not like you’re making it up. … Facts are facts. This is what they think of us. Now we have a chance to go show everybody what we’re really all about. And can we bounce back, and can we be that team everyone says we are?"

By all accounts, practices have been crisp and loose this week. The final minutes are open to the media, and the general mood has seemed light as players trot off the field. Many rib one another. Some are ribbed by Strong.

Disappointment seemingly has given way to decompression. With some disrespect tossed in.

"You see a lot more focus (in practice)," senior middle linebacker Auggie Sanchez said.

"I think the spotlight for us wasn’t necessarily what we needed. I think when you look at USF football, you look at a group of guys that probably always had something to ’em that someone didn’t believe in ’em. And I think that’s the position we like to play at … people doubting us."

Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

Comments
Live from SEC media days: Five stories to follow

Live from SEC media days: Five stories to follow

ATLANTA — Good morning from SEC media days, the unofficial kickoff to college football's preseason.The four-day event begins later this morning with commissioner Greg Sankey's address at 11:30. A few things I'll be monitoring over the next...
Updated: 2 hours ago
John Morgan represents ex-Louisville players suing NCAA over vacated national title

John Morgan represents ex-Louisville players suing NCAA over vacated national title

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A group of former Louisville men’s basketball players have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA over the organization’s vacation of the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four. John Morgan, a Florida attorney who ...
Published: 07/11/18
Tim Tebow to join Florida Gators’ ring of honor

Tim Tebow to join Florida Gators’ ring of honor

Florida Gators legend Tim Tebow will become the latest player inducted into UF's ring of honor, the team announced Wednesday.Tebow will be honored on Oct. 6, when UF hosts LSU and when the Gators honor their 2008 national title team at Ben Hill Griff...
Published: 07/11/18
Florida Gators announce non-conference basketball schedule

Florida Gators announce non-conference basketball schedule

The Florida Gators announced their non-conference basketball schedule for the upcoming season.Their home opener is Nov. 9 against Charleston Southern, which also happens to be the football team's opener.The full schedule:Nov. 6: at Florida StateNov. ...
Published: 07/11/18
SEC media days: The story behind Dan Mullen’s sneakers and suits

SEC media days: The story behind Dan Mullen’s sneakers and suits

Dan Mullen didn't think he was making a big fashion statement at SEC media days three years ago.Yes, he was wearing trendy new sneakers — gray Adidas kicks designed by Kanye West. And yes, he paired them with a dark pinstripe suit.But Mull...
Published: 07/11/18
Former Dan Mullen signee Cord Sandberg adds UCF offer; UCLA on radar

Former Dan Mullen signee Cord Sandberg adds UCF offer; UCLA on radar

Former Bradenton Manatee QB Cord Sandberg, who signed to play for first-year Gators coach Dan Mullen in a previous football life, is pondering more substantial offers from other suitors this time around.Sandberg, a lefthander who announced Wednesday ...
Published: 07/06/18
Why Cord Sandberg’s baseball retirement could help Florida Gators football

Why Cord Sandberg’s baseball retirement could help Florida Gators football

Cord Sandberg was in one of the Phillies' minor-league clubhouses in 2016 when former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott was drafted by the Cowboys."All the guys in the clubhouse are like, 'Hey, wait a second, Cord, wasn't that supposed to be...
Published: 07/05/18
Ranking every college football game to be played by Florida’s teams

Ranking every college football game to be played by Florida’s teams

With the college football season finally approaching, I ranked each of this season's 78 games involving state teams. The two criteria are the same as last year: How important do I think this game will be, and how exciting is the matchup?78. Arka...
Published: 07/05/18
FSU coach Willie Taggart named one of Western Kentucky’s greats

FSU coach Willie Taggart named one of Western Kentucky’s greats

Florida State coach Willie Taggart received a cool honor late last week.Western Kentucky honored its former star quarterback by putting him on the school's all-century team. Taggart was at Western Kentucky from 1995-98 and was a two-time All-American...
Published: 07/02/18
UT lacrosse player earns Freddie Solomon Community Service Award

UT lacrosse player earns Freddie Solomon Community Service Award

TAMPA — For University of Tampa women’s lacrosse player Megan Sanchez, community service isn’t an obligation.It’s a way of life.Sanchez, from Wesley Chapel High School, was surprised to receive UT’s Freddie Solomon Community Service Award, given by t...
Published: 06/28/18
Updated: 07/02/18