TAMPA — USF's opponent for the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 20 will be Memphis, a rival from the Bulls' days in Conference USA.
"We haven't made that step up yet, so we like the chance to play against a team from a BCS conference," said coach Tommy West, whose team won three of its last four to become bowl eligible. "We've played in the past and still have the same coaches, which is unusual. It's exciting for us to be coming to St. Petersburg."
Memphis was announced as the Bulls' opponent Sunday, and the two schools have met four times, with each team winning twice. The most recent meeting was a 31-15 home loss for the Bulls in 2004 after wins in 2002 and 2003.
The Tigers overcame an 0-3 start to become bowl eligible, their biggest wins coming against fellow 6-6 teams Southern Miss and Arkansas State. They played Louisville close, losing 35-28 at home to a team that defeated USF 24-20 this season.
Memphis has a solid running back in Curtis Steele, a 6-foot, 185-pounder with 1,175 yards (third in C-USA), seven touchdowns and a 5.7-yard average. Its top receiver, Carlos Singleton, is a huge target at 6-8 and 220 pounds with 50 catches for 759 yards and five touchdowns.
MAKE PLAYS: Offensive coordinator Greg Gregory said USF got in position to make game-winning plays in Saturday's 13-7 loss but couldn't execute when needed. Three times, the Bulls advanced inside the West Virginia 20 but failed to score.
"The opportunity for points was there. There's no doubt about that," Gregory said. "I felt like for the most part we executed except for a handful of plays. … You aren't going to score unless you make those plays against a good defensive team."
WAY DOWN: USF finished Big East play with a significant drop in scoring in conference games, 43 percent from last season. The Bulls went from 34.3 points per league game to 19.4, a difference of more than two touchdowns.
The Big East as a whole was more defense-dominated with overall scoring down 12.7 percent. USF's defense actually gave up fewer points in this year's conference games — five fewer than last year — but the net change was second-worst among the eight Big East defenses.
THIS AND THAT: Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie had 11 tackles, giving him 105 for the season, his third straight year with at least 100. He also had three tackles for loss, giving him 14 for the year and pushing him ahead of defensive end George Selvie (121/2) for the team lead. … Quarterback Matt Grothe has 14 interceptions, the same as his first two seasons.