After starting 0-2 in the Big East, Coach Holtz, the Bulls, and fans alike were looking for much needed refreshment.
But after winning three conference games in a row, and a huge conference game on tap, Coach Holtz is serving the green & gold kool-aid, and i say pour me a cup. This weekend USF faces Pitt at Raymond James Stadium, and if they beat the current conference leader, the Bulls will be tied for first with just one Big East game against UConn left on the docket, which will be played at the Ray Jay on Dec. 4th.
Entering the season, expectations were to be tempered with the turmoil that came along with a coaching change. then when the Bulls lost their first two conference games, with a 13-9 home loss to Syracuse , and a 20-6 loss to West Virginia , expectations dropped to less than zero.
Sitting at 0-2, USF has had the worst record in the conference and were going into week 8 with a daunting road game at Cincinnati , a place they've never won at.
The knock on the Bulls were many, they couldn't score an offensive touchdown, they were mistake prone, and Quarterback B.J. Daniels was taking on tons of criticism for his performance in the losses. Questions about the Bulls offense, the qb, coaching styles, and whether the Bulls could ever challenge for a Big East title were plentiful.
Then the Bulls travelled to Cincy and finally, the USF offense showed up. B.J. Daniels, ran and threw well, didn't make any mistakes and kept up the pace when Cincinnati and Zach Collaros were firing away, winning a thriller 38-30 at Nippert Stadium, a place they have never won at. Is it time to take the can of Green & Gold Kool-aid off the shelf?
With the first big win in the Skip Holtz era, the Bulls would host Rutgers , a team they have lost to the last four games. USF running back Mo Plancher rushed for a career-high 135 yards, B.J. Daniels threw two touchdown passes, as the Bulls made their first fourth quarter comeback since 2007, then USF defense played stout, and LB Jacquian Williams sacked Rutgers QB Chris Dodd to secure the 28-27 win and to give USF its 100th victory . Another demon exorcized, and they start mixing the Kool-aid.
Now USF faced another road game, this time at Louisville , another venue the Bulls have never won at. USF was trailing L'ville 14-3 late in the first half before Lindsey Lamar took a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, Demetris Murray had a 67-yard run to set up a field goal, then the Bulls took the lead in the fourth quarter when QB B.J. Daniels hit receiver Dontavia Bogan for a fantastic 48-yard touchdown, and Daniels' ran for the 2-point conversion and a 21-14 lead. Louisville tied the game with less than 2 minutes left, and USF had a chance to win in regulation, but Maikon Bonani's 52-yarder didn't count as Strong iced him with a time out. He missed his second attempt. In OT, the Bulls got a huge defensive stop on 4th-and-1 and kicker Maikon Bonani nailed a 37-yard field goal, ended its road jinx at Louisville 24-21, keeping the Bulls in the conference race and bowl eligible for the sixth straight season.
In the last three weeks Holtz and the Bulls have exorcized the demons by winning at Cincinnati, beating Rutgers, and winning at Louisville. In the last two wins, the Bulls made fourth quarter comebacks, after not doing so since beating Auburn in 2007. And amazingly with two conference games left, the Bulls have a shot at the title.
Now it's time to start pouring the Kool-aid, and I want a cup because I'm drinking it.
Coach Holtz's is staying away from the "if this, then that" scenarios, but with so much on the line in this game how can we? Bulls' fans know that if they beat Pittsburgh , then they only need win their season finale against UConn at Raymond James on Dec. 4th to either win the coveted Big East title or at least grab a share of it.
Considering that since joining the Big East in ‘05, the Bulls have struggled in conference play, never winning more than four conference games. Last season, they tied for fifth, finished sixth in 2008, and never finished higher than tied for third. In a season that no one thought they compete for a conference title, the Bulls are still in contention in the Big East.
Holtz has initiated a change of attitude and culture in Tampa. Attention to detail and the approach to practice have been altered under Coach Holtz. Focus and enthusiasm are stressed, and Holtz has the team buying into the system.
The Bulls still have to beat Pittsburgh, to keep the title talk going, and need a bit of help down the final stretch to capture its first Big East title, but it's within their grasp. But considering how they started conference play, Holtz should have USF fans reaching for another glass of Kool-Aid.
So go ahead and drink the USF green & gold Kool-Aid Bulls fans, and enjoy it for now. Just remember that Coach Holtz and staff haven't even been on the job for a year yet, and once they get more time under their belt, and the $30 million in facility upgrades are finished, we may be drinking a lot of the Kool-aid in 2011 and beyond.