A Look Back On the Road to Rutgers

This weekend the Bulls went on the road to New Jersey to face Rutgers for a BIG EAST match-up, and members of the staff of USFNation.com traveled north as well. It's was quite a day and was an exciting experience, and I kept a journal to share the entire experience with our readers. Only on USFNation.com

 

4:00 a.m. - My road trip to New Brunswick begins with the unpleasant sound of talk radio coming from my alarm clock. I don't think I was actually sleeping when it did go off, I was way to anxious for the game and getting up that early adds to it. I'm definitely not a morning person. The two things that made it easier to get up were the fact that our No. 2 Bulls are playing today and the aroma from the coffee maker that I programmed the night before.

 

4:30 a.m. – It's getting close to that time to leave and the morning paper still hasn't arrived yet, and I'm not happy about drinking my coffee without it at all. I can read it online, but there's something about actually reading the physical paper in the morning that I have always liked. Then the phone rings and its USFNation.com photographer Kyle Jeffries who knows me to well making sure I'm up and on schedule.

 

4:45 a.m. – Loading everything in the car, but before I can leave realized I had run back inside to get my charger that was still plugged into the wall and a few other things. Some things never change.

 

4:55 a.m.- Finally I'm leaving my very humble abode on Indian Rocks Beach (Pinellas county) to begin my first leg of the trip to Tampa airport. Its still very dark out, but the good thing is that besides school buses, there is hardly any traffic this time in the morning. Usually I'm on my cell phone talking about the team during the drive to Tampa, but there aren't many people I can call this early and will have to settle for crappy early morning talk radio.

 

5:40 a.m. – Made it to the terminal 10 minutes later then I was supposed to but 5 minutes before the 5:45 cut-off that would have left me looking for a later flight and most likely out of luck. After some ribbing by Kyle for being late we headed over to the gate to catch our 6:30 flight. While walking to the gate I was amazed with how many people I saw at the airport wearing USF apparel. On our flight there had to be a dozen USF fans if not more. The fact that people wee traveling to Rutgers on a Thursday to see them play is a very good indicator on how the fans will travel to a bowl game this year.

 

6:30 a.m. – The plane just took off the ground and we're in the air, next stop Philadelphia airport. One I thing I noticed about the Southwest flight is its very short on amenities, no TV or radio and the seats are akin to a bus. I guess I've gotten used to the finer things in life like watching ESPN during a flight.

 

8:30 a.m. – Good news, the pilot just announced will be landing 15 minutes earlier then expected.

 

8:45 a.m. – The new about an early was premature as the pilot just announced that there is some fog an air traffic and we'll be in a holding pattern for a bit.

 

9:00 a.m. – Just had a scary air moment. We went in for a landing and then at the last moment the pilot pulled up and aborted the landing due to fog.

 

9:15 a.m. – Had an even scarier air experience. As we went in for our second landing attempt and got within 50 feet or yards, it was hard to tell, the pilot realized we weren't aligned with the runway and aborted again. But this time we climbed very steeply and so hard you could feel the G-force. I actually gripped my armrests and for a moment was nervous.

 

9:30 a.m. – After circling for over 45 minutes and two aborted landings the pilot just announced that we have to redirect to Pittsburgh to refuel. It's just my luck that what they said about the Philadelphia airport having the most delays is true.

 

11:00 a.m. – following a 45 minute pit stop in Pittsburgh, we re-boarded the plane and headed back to Philadelphia.

 

11:45 a.m. – Finally, we landed in Philadelphia. It was a bit rough but we made it on the ground, and it was only 3 hours late. We got our rental car, put on a Bulls car flag and began the next leg of the trip to Piscataway.




1:00 p.m. – We saw there was a place called Levittown PA, so we decided to check it out. Found some road signs to Levittown, but made some wrong turns, couldn't find it and then decide to continue on to Piscataway.

 

2:00 p.m. - A car next to us starts waving so I rolled down the window and the guy says "Are you from South Florida?" I say yes and he says, "Jerome Murphy is my boy." FYI, Murphy is from Elizabeth, just a short jaunt from where Rutgers plays.  After yelling that I know Murphy and that he's a baler, he yells back, "Tell him Tyrone Hamilton said hey."

 

2:30 p.m. - After driving on Route 1 for a while, I'm realizing how hard it is to get around New Jersey, the only place I know where you can't make a left turn and the Map Quest directions are very suspect and don't seem to help much.

 

3:00 p.m. – We finally arrive at Rutgers stadium.

 

First thing I notice is that all the light poles on the roads surrounding the stadium are adorned with nice red Rutgers flags. After we park the car and get out, a couple of guys that are tailgating a few cars down see our USF gear and ask "if we're from South Florida?" I respond yes and they go into how they're big fans of Jerome Murphy and that one of them played basketball with Murphy in high school. I never realized that Jerome had such a following but I guess he's sort of a home town hero in these parts. After talking with them for a bit they ask if we had extra tickets, we said no and were on our way.



 

Right next to where we parked, I notice that Rutgers has an impressive looking football complex and really neat looking indoors practice facility. I found out later it's known as "The Bubble," and that it is the largest air-supported indoor structure.

 

Next to the Bubble, were the facilities and parked outside was a red Helicopter with a Big ‘R' affixed to it. I didn't know they had a copter, but found out they got it over the summer from Liberty Helicopters, and have used it to fly to see recruits during games. They also said the "R' was recently added and was unveiled for the USF game.



 

I was first impressed with the Stadium itself and they way it's dug into the side of a hill, but that changed when I had to walk all the stairs to get to and from the press box. The Pressroom was top notch and held over 120 media personal.

 

Now down to the field to check out the pre-game activities. There were a lot of faces on the field garnering some attention. Doug Flutie was the first to catch my eye, and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was noticed by almost everybody as well. There were also a gaggle of NFL scouts in attendance talking to both Rutgers and USF coaches before the game.

 

Even though there was a sea of Red, the USF section looked to have somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 in it, including Jen Sterger and Brittany who have become a fixture at USF home games. Considering the sold out stadium only holds around 44,000 it was good to see all the fans that traveled for the Thursday night game.

 

While walking and filming one of the student sections (it seamed like there were a ton of students at the game) I noticed how close to the field they were and how hostile the crowds were. They were yelling all sorts of obscenities at me. The only suitable to repeat is the one I actually heard often was, "Nice tan, go back to Florida. There were a lot worse but as I said I can't print them. A few times the police came over by me to make sure that I wasn't mugged, maimed or anything else.




7:45 p.m. – The teams re-entered the field and after the national anthem and an Army helicopter fly over, they kicked off to start the game at 8:00 o'clock. I'm not going to go into the game summary that is already being rehashed enough on the message boards. Lets just say it was a hard fought game, the Bulls had there chances to win the game and the Ref's didn't seem to favor our South Florida Bulls very much.





11:37 p.m. – The game ended with Rutgers on top 30-27 and the throngs of fans storming the fields which made it very hard for me to get off the field, all the way up to the press box, and then all the way back down to the field to the other side of the stadium and up the long steep ramp to the post game press conference held in the men's lacrosse locker room. The post game was a short one by Coach Leavitt:



"Rutgers played a heck of a ballgame, they really did. They hit all the fake field goal, fake punts. The early one we had the guy covering the receiver and it was a great throw right down the sideline. We just gotta make a play. And on the field goal, we had our arms wrapped around the guy throwing the ball and he did a great job throwing the ball. It was a great football play. Our kicking game was the real big difference of the game. The kickoff returner to get out of the gate a few times, that's not good. We gave them good field position a couple of times. We had the field goal blocked and that hurt us certainly. Did we miss another field goal? Yes, that six points right there. We needed to make those things happen. We had the ball on the 50-yard line at the end and that is exactly the situation you want with the chance to at least attempt a field goal or get a touchdown. Rutgers is a good football team, nothing surprised us there. We prepared well. They made more plays than we did tonight."

On the reversed call on the touchdown:
"We blocked a field goal and picked it up and I thought we scored. Somehow the replay showed we did not score. That would have been a big part of our defense also. I was not in the replay booth and I was certainly disappointed by that but they have to go what they think is right. That was big, a turn of events of 10 points."

On the defense:
"I thought our defense played hard and I think you have to, come on and give Rutgers credit. Rutgers did a good job tonight. Ray Rice is a good running back and he showed it tonight. They had the one big pass play that we missed the tackle and they went out the gate. Our defense did some good things, too. Could we have played better defense, sure, we could have."

On the offense
 "We did not protect very good. We have to get the ball off and Matt probably held onto the ball too much instead of getting rid of the ball. They were getting thru there. We all saw the same thing. You have to be a little disappointed, possibly with the offensive line. There are a number of factors there."

On the feeling in the locker room:
"They are not jumping up and down and excited (in the locker room). They are down. They battled their tail off and worked hard. I am proud of them and they are disappointed certainly."

On the Big East Conference:
"It's a tremendous conference, BIG EAST football.
You better be locked in every game because I imagine they are all going to be like this every game. Boy, if people out there saw this game, they would think it was an unbelievable game, unbelievable plays, the highs and lows. For a fan watching it, it was unbelievable. For a coach watching it, it was a little bit of a strain."


1:00 a.m. – We leave Rutgers and head back to the airport. After driving for a long while I look up and notice that we missed our exit and the driver was nodding off at the wheel. The last thing I wanted was to die on the New Jersey Turnpike, so we did everything we could to keep him awake.

3:30 a.m. – Arrive at the Philly airport way to late to get a room, especially when he had to be at the terminal at 6:30. I didn't know this, but you can't even enter the main concourse until security opens at 4:00, so we had to wait in a small area akin to a bus stop. Once we were allowed through, I realized how much I missed Tampa international amenities and free wireless throughout the airport.

7:30 a.m. – Flight leaves and we begin the final leg home. I tried to get some shut eye, but two crying kids in the row ahead of me made it almost impossible. Finally and without incident we land in Tampa. I drop the video camera off at Josh's and make my way back over the bridge.

12:00 noon – After a long 34 hours with minimal if any sleep, I do some work on the computer and then crashed for what seemed like an eternity. The road to Rutgers was long and tiring, and even though the Bulls loss made it bittersweet, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. However, next time I may do it a bit differently.




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