TORONTO — The International Bowl is in its fourth year, and though no team has made a repeat appearance, USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey has a chance to pick up his second Rogers Centre win Saturday when the Bulls take on Northern Illinois.
Tresey was part of Brian Kelly's Cincinnati staff when the Bearcats beat Western Michigan in the inaugural bowl after the 2006 season. He followed Kelly to the school to make a rare coaching debut in a bowl after both had coached at Central Michigan that year.
"We did the Central Michigan Motor City (bowl game) and then turned around and came and did this game," said Tresey, who stayed with the Chippewas with their interim coach, then joined Kelly in Cincinnati, winning two bowl games in 12 days.
Tresey said he's looking forward to Saturday's game, but his goal is to make a different return — to a BCS bowl. With Cincinnati last season, he lost to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
"Your goal is to get to a BCS bowl," Tresey said.
"We're happy to be in a bowl instead of sitting at home, but we'd like it to be a bigger bowl."
TRYING TO KEEP UP: Northern Illinois played well in games against BCS conference teams Wisconsin and Purdue this season, but when asked if any opponent reminds him of USF, coach Jerry Kill said it's last year's Tennessee squad.
"As far as having athletic defensive players, the defensive ends are great players, but the whole athletic ability of their football team is like a team in the Southeastern Conference," said Kill, remembering S Eric Berry, who had an interception against his team.
"We haven't seen somebody like that since Tennessee."
NIU held its own at Tennessee, losing 13-9, and the Huskies played well this season against its toughest opponents, getting a road win at Purdue and losing 28-20 at Wisconsin.
BADGER FLASHBACK: NIU's top rusher, RB Chad Spann, said USF's defense reminds him of Wisconsin, led by elite pass-rusher DE O'Brien Schofield, who finished second in the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss in the regular season.
Schofield had seven tackles against NIU, 2.5 for losses.
"(USF has) a fast, strong defense that plays really hard. That's what we've seen all season," said Spann, who rushed for 945 yards and 19 touchdowns in the regular season.
THIS AND THAT: The game features conferences at opposite ends of this bowl season. The Big East is 2-0 entering West Virginia's game today against Florida State; the Mid-American Conference is 0-3. … As excited as S Jerrell Young, a Gibbs graduate, is about being in Canada for the first time, he has more travel ahead. He's flying to Japan on Sunday to meet his mother and see his sister, who has been stationed there in the military for three years. … DE Jason Pierre-Paul outflipped LB Kion Wilson in an impromptu post-practice contest to see who could do the most consecutive backflips. Pierre-Paul did 13. USF's sports information department posted the video on Youtube.com.
Times writer Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.