TAMPA — Just as his USF team has lost its shot at representing the Big East in a BCS bowl game, the Bulls' opponent this week, Miami, saw its hopes of playing in the ACC Championship Game end with a loss to Virginia Tech.
For Skip Holtz, that means Saturday's game in Miami could come down to which team finds a new spark to carry it the rest of the way.
"Both programs are in the same boat with a loss," he said Sunday night. "We both kind of had hopes we could turn and get into that championship game, and we both knocked ourselves out of it with a loss. So I think it's going to be important the team that's the most resilient, the team that bounces back and has the ability to put this behind them as fast as they can, learn from the mistakes that were made and move forward."
Watching tape of Saturday's 17-10 loss to Pittsburgh, Holtz said the most frustrating thing was special teams, citing poor play by many units with penalties and mistakes that cost USF, especially in field position.
"The thing that probably was the biggest disappointment in the game was it's the worst our special teams have played all year," he said. "That's the thing that was probably the most discouraging.
"We did not punt the ball very well. We missed a field goal, granted it was a 52-yarder. Our offense started inside the 10-yard line three times off special teams. We had a punt blocked, we had a fair catch on the 2-yard line and a penalty on a kickoff return that made us start on the 8. All of a sudden, your offense is 90 yards away three times. A clip is the difference between starting on their 30 or your 8. That's where you beat yourself up bad."
THIS AND THAT: Holtz said DE Craig Marshall, out the last three games with a broken foot, ran with the team Sunday night and is hopeful about returning for the Miami game. Another key reserve, G Danous Estenor, could return as well. The most significant injury from Saturday's game was Marshall's replacement at end, junior Patrick Hampton, who injured his ankle. His status for Saturday isn't known yet. … Saturday's game will have a noon kickoff and will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU. It's the Bulls' third Saturday noon kickoff in a row, following a win at Louisville and the loss to Pittsburgh.