USF vice-president of athletics Michael Kelly said Monday slightly more than 50,000 tickets have been sold for Friday's game against UCF, assuring the Bulls of their best home crowd since the 2016 FSU game (announced audience of 61,665).
USF recently announced all lower-bowl seats at Raymond James Stadium have been sold, but indicated seats in parts of the 300 level — normally closed for Bulls games — are for sale.
"I think that's great that you're having the big crowd and the opponent you have coming in, and it is really good for our fans 'cause I know they'll come out and support us," Bulls coach Charlie Strong said.
"And that's what you want to see. … I just don't want (UCF fans) to come in here and take over our stadium. I want to make sure our fans get out. And even though we haven't been playing good the last four weeks, we still have a good football team."
44,000+ lower bowl seats for the War on I-4 are sold out!✅ 300 level seats are going fast!Get your tix now for the Nov. 23 clash!Kickoff time announced this weekend. Will be noon, 3:30 or 4:15. TIX: https://t.co/PgQHku2vRK #BullStrong pic.twitter.com/gghCM3fsyZ— USF Football (@USFFootball) November 16, 2018
Strong said Monday he's hopeful TE Mitch Wilcox, who re-aggravated an ankle injury in Saturday's loss at Temple, will be available for Friday's showdown with UCF.
Arguably the biggest matchup nightmare on USF's receiving corps, Wilcox has played roughly the last month on two dinged-up ankles. He missed the Tulane contest, had seven receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown at Cincinnati, then exited in the first half Saturday before catching a pass.
"Mitch is a warrior. He tried to go back out there and play on one ankle (at Temple) and he got it rolled early," Strong said.
"When Mitch isn't in, that really hurts us 'cause he such a factor on offense for us. … The thing about him, and that's what I love about him, he's so tough. He'll find a way to play this game. There's not many guys who are gonna want to sit out this game."
Strong added that QB Blake Barnett "rested" at Sunday's practice, but qualified that by adding several players rested during the workout. Barnett, who missed the Cincinnati game with shoulder soreness, took a hard upper-body shot late against Temple, but finished the contest.
Partially obscured by the Bulls' late-season skid has been redshirt freshman Bentlee Sanders' emergence as a kick returner. The Tampa Catholic alumnus had a 46-yard return Saturday at Temple, and enters the UCF game with a 26.8-yard average on a team-high 13 returns.
"The thing you like about Bentlee is, he gets north-south with the ball, and he gets downhill with it," Strong said. "There's none of the faking. He catches it and he goes."
Odds and ends
Junior DE Kirk Livingstone and senior FS Jaymon Thomas have earned first-team Google Cloud Academic All-District honors for District 4, which represents student-athletes from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Both are three-time academic all-conference team members. … Clay Matvick (play-by-play), Dan Orlovsky (analyst) and Paul Carcaterra (sideline) will call Friday's game for ESPN. … UCF will be the highest-ranked Bulls opponent to play at Raymond James Stadium since No. 4 FSU in 2012. The 'Noles won that game, 30-12.
"When you start winning, and you start playing with confidence, you just feel like no one's gonna beat you, and that's what they have going on right now. They just feel like they're not gonna lose. And when you have that attitude, it's hard to lose." — Strong on UCF