1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Gators

USF beat Dan Mullen 17 years ago. The Bulls rushed the field to celebrate.

The current Florida Gators coach has only lost to in-state teams twice. Once was in 2002 against USF.
In this file photo, Chris Daley hugs USF head coach Jim Leavitt after the Bulls beat Bowling Green 29-7 in 2002. [SERNE, BILL  |  St. Petersburg Times]
In this file photo, Chris Daley hugs USF head coach Jim Leavitt after the Bulls beat Bowling Green 29-7 in 2002. [SERNE, BILL | St. Petersburg Times]
Published Nov. 26, 2019
Updated Nov. 26, 2019

GAINESVILLE — As his Florida Gators prepare to end the regular season Saturday against rival Florida State, Dan Mullen reached deep into his coaching history Monday to bring up ... USF. Follow along.

As a head coach and assistant, Mullen is undefeated against FSU, 2-0 against Miami and has a win over UCF. The only state team he has lost to as a head coach was the Gators, who beat his first Mississippi State team in 2009.

RELATED: Kyle Trask: ‘I don’t plan on leaving’ Florida Gators

When Mullen was asked about his control of the state during his news conference Monday, he brought up one other loss to a Florida team. When he was the quarterbacks coach at Bowling Green, his Falcons got knocked off 29-7 by USF in 2002.

“That was a pretty good team,” Mullen said. “We had a decent team, but that was a good team. … They had some players that year.”

Jim Leavitt’s Bulls were independent that year and a season away from joining Conference-USA. USF finished 9-2, which is still the third-best mark in program history. The Bulls rushed the field after that win over ranked Bowling Green, and Leavitt received a celebratory Gatorade bath. The Times’ account of the triumph called it a “seminal moment in USF sports history.”

In this Times 2002 photo, USF coach Jim Leavitt is shown getting a celebratory Gatorade bath after upsetting Bowling Green. [SERNE, BILL | St. Petersburg Times]

“I was just standing on the sideline in awe," Leavitt said after that victory. "I was really taken aback by our football team. At the end I was emotionless, because I was so impressed with the way our players played.”

Leavitt, of course, will be coaching against Mullen this weekend as an FSU assistant.

RELATED: Why Odell Haggins is a semi-secret weapon against Florida

Here’s the Times’ 2002 game story (written by Pete Young) of USF’s triumph over Mullen, Urban Meyer and the rest of the Falcons:

It was early August, just before two-a-days, on a rainy afternoon much like Saturday. South Florida coach Jim Leavitt, inside Raymond James Stadium for media day, offered a candid forecast of his team's potential in a rare unguarded moment.

This team, his team, was going to explode at some point this season, he said. He repeated it, using the same key word: explode.

The moment arrived Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. In a seminal event in USF sports history, the Bulls (8-2) blindsided Bowling Green 29-7.

The Falcons (8-2), No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, were overwhelmed.

“I was just standing on the sideline in awe," Leavitt said. "I was really taken aback by our football team. At the end I was emotionless, because I was so impressed with the way our players played. They really played.

"I told them to go in expecting to win and play with confidence. We rose up pretty good."

Hundreds of fans hopped out of the stands and collected at midfield, chanting "USF! USF!" with the Bulls players.

The Bulls held a 383-226 yardage advantage, and if not for the punting game (one blocked, one wayward snap), they would have notched a shutout: Bowling Green's only points came on an 18-yard drive after the block.

USF throttled the nation's third-best scoring offense. Bowling Green was averaging 44 points and more than 230 yards rushing and passing. Falcons quarterback Josh Harris, who was responsible for 21.56 points a game, first in the nation, was 10 of 24 for 84 yards. He rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts.

"We came out here and smashed them in the mouth," USF senior defensive end Chris Daley said. "In the locker room, the defense, we talked about "swarm and punish.' You've got to come with that killer mentality."

The Bulls did not commit a turnover and allowed four first downs in the first half, when they surged to a 23-7 lead.

"It was a complete game," safety J.R. Reed said. "Usually the offense or defense plays good, maybe for a half. Tonight it was both for the whole game."

The Bulls extended their home win streak to 19, second-longest in the nation, and escalated their bowl hopes in front of representatives of the Motor City Bowl. USF closes its regular season Saturday at Houston.

"We've got two games to go," senior cornerback Maurice Tucker said, alluding to the possible bowl game. "We still haven't played our best. Tucker didn't finish the sentence, as fellow cornerback Ron Hemingway jumped on his back, shouting, "I love you dog!"

The seniors completed their home careers in style, 25-1 over four years at Raymond James Stadium.

"There's just something about our home territory," Daley said. "We don't want anybody to get a win, or a yard, in our house."

While Bowling Green's offense was smothered _ 90 first-half yards _ USF moved easily. Senior quarterback Marquel Blackwell rushed nine times for 56 yards and completed 21 of 40 passes for 220 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions, extending his streak of passes without a pickoff to 199.

Bowling Green took the early lead, forcing a three and out and blocking a punt. Harris carried it in four plays later from the 8 for a 7-0 lead.

It was all USF from there. An 86-yard drive evened it at 7. Blackwell rolled left from the Bowling Green 42 and threw into the end zone to Chris Iskra. The junior from Clearwater Central Catholic deftly outdueled a defender for the score.

The Bulls went up 9-7 when Bowling Green, from its 10, surrendered a safety as a shotgun snap sailed over Harris' head. USF extended it to 16-7 on a 9-yard run by DeJuan Green. In the second quarter the Bulls seized command, marching 77 yards in 12 plays. Clenton Crossley capped the drive with a 2-yard score for a 23-7 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, a bad USF punt snap gave the Falcons the ball deep in Bulls territory. But safety John Miller drilled Harris at the USF 5 as he rushed over left tackle, causing and recovering a fumble.

The Bulls tacked on two Santiago Gramatica field goals, from 38 and 31 yards, to complete the scoring.

The Falcons entered 16-4 the past two seasons, 5-0 against schools from BCS conferences. Bowling Green is one of three teams receiving votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll (along with Northern Illinois and Southern Miss) that USF has defeated this season.

The Bulls never have received votes in either national poll. That could change today.

"They were saying that South Florida was going to be a good team 5, 6 years down the road," Daley said. "We wanted to make a statement that it's not 5, 6 years down the road, it's now. South Florida comes to play.

“With the way we beat them, we should be in the Top 25.”


  1. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow holds the national championship trophy as safety Grant Delpit looks on after the Tigers beat Clemson 42-25 on Jan. 13 in New Orleans. [GERALD HERBERT  |  AP]
    The LSU Tigers faced five top-seven defenses, averaging 38 points against them.
  2. Coach Mike White has Florida come off a big home win over Auburn on Saturday and lose 84-82 at LSU three days later. [MATT STAMEY  |  AP]
    Video review shows time ran out just before Florida’s tying layup.
  3. Florida head coach Dan Mullen celebrates after the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against Virginia, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Florida won 36-28. [BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP]
    Defensive tackle signee Gervon Dexter has earned his fifth star.
  4. Florida forward Omar Payne (5) runs up court after making a shot against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla. Payne was a perfect 9 for 9 shooting during the game. [MATT STAMEY  |  AP]
    Previewing the Gators’ 7 p.m game at LSU on Tuesday.
  5. IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR ALLSTATE - Tim Tebow and fiancé Demi Nel-Peters volunteer together alongside Allstate volunteers at a community service project to benefit the Einstein Charter School ahead of the 2020 Allstate Sugar Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in New Orleans. (Cheryl Gerber/AP Images for Allstate) [CHERYL GERBER  |  AP]
    The former quarterback and current Mets minor leaguer previously said he planned to remain a virgin until marriage.
  6. Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Josh Allen (41) takes aim for Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) during a 2018 game. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The grad transfer will be eligible immediately.
  7. Auburn center Austin Wiley guards Florida forward Omar Payne during the first half of their game on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Gainesville. Payne, a freshman out of Montverde Academy, finishes with a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds for his first double double in college. [MATT STAMEY  |  AP]
    Freshman Omar Payne has a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds as UF earns its most impressive victory of the season.
  8. Florida's Keyontae Johnson, shown here scoring against Arkansas in last season's SEC tournament, is averaging 13 points and 6.8 rebounds this season. [MARK HUMPHREY  |  AP]
    UF looks for an elite win Saturday at home, where it has won five in row, to help strengthen its NCAA Tournament resume.
  9. Florida guard Andrew Nembhard shoots over Mississippi guard Devontae Shuler during their game Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, in Gainesville. [BRAD MCCLENNY  |  AP]
    Coach Mike White says his point guard missed practice Thursday and Friday. If he’s out, freshmen Tre Mann or Ques Glover likely will start Saturday.
  10. Todd Monken spent two seasons in Tampa Bay, the last as offensive coordinator, before being dismissed along with the rest of head coach Dirk Koetter's staff after the 2018 season.
    Tampa Bay’s former play-caller will be designing game plans for the Bulldogs against the Florida Gators next season.