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2000: The One That Got Away June 17, 2016 By USF


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2000: The One That Got Away

June 17, 2016
By  USF
 

On Sept. 3, the Bulls will start their 20th season of football.  This summer we’ll take a look back at 20 moments, one for each season, including the “practice but no games” year of 1996.  These may not be the biggest moments in USF history; they may not even be moments where things went right for the Bulls.  But they help define the program, remind us where the time has gone, and show how our Bulls have progressed as season 20 gets closer and closer.

20 Seasons, 20 Memories: Fifth Edition (2000)

Story Archive

First Edition (1996)

Second Edition (1997)

Third Edition (1998)

Fourth Edition (1999)

 

By JIM LOUK

Voice of the Bulls

TAMPA, JUNE 17, 2016 – The Bulls put together a 7-4 season in 1999, but the loss to San Diego State in the opener was their only chance that year to defeat their first 1-A opponent.  The 2000 season, however, would give them multiple chances.

On Sept. 9, the Bulls played Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium, losing 27-9.  The score was respectable, but in reality the Bulls weren’t that close.  Kentucky scored the first 20 points of the game. 

So, the Bulls were officially 0-2 against 1-A competition.

I know that in both of those games the Bulls stayed away from a “just glad to be here” attitude and went in determined to win.  But the simple fact was they were big underdogs both times.  Both were road games against a much more established opponent. The results may have been a little disappointing, but they probably shouldn’t have been very surprising.

That brings us to Sept. 23, 2000 in Waco, Texas. It was the Bulls’ third chance at a 1-A win, against the Baylor Bears.

In those days, Baylor wasn’t Baylor. Baylor wasn’t San Diego State or Kentucky either. The Bears had been 9-35 in the four years prior to 2000, and they’d go 12-34 in the four seasons after the meeting with the Bulls.  For a lot of us who were close to the team, this game felt like the one for USF; the breakthrough game against a legitimate but struggling 1-A program.

We traveled to Waco and played in front of a crowd that barely cracked 20,000. And oh my goodness, it was hot at the 6 p.m. kickoff.  I mean “USF vs. Florida 2010 hot.” The official game stats list the weather conditions at kickoff as 97 degrees, partly sunny and humid.  The best word might be withering. An absolutely withering heat.

But both teams had to play in it, and of course the Bulls have never shied away from heat and humidity.

It started out well. With about 5 minutes left in the first quarter in a scoreless game, Marquel Blackwell hit Scott McCready with a 29-yard touchdown pass, and for the first time, were we ahead of a 1-A team.

Baylor came back and took the lead with 26 seconds left in the half but we still felt good. The stat sheet was pretty even. We were right with them.

In the second half, the Bulls managed two Bill Gramatica field goals, but that was it.  Heading to the fourth quarter, it was 14-13 Bears, but then Baylor slowly and gradually pulled away and the Bulls fell, 28-13.

I guess it was more progress.  We lost to a 1-A team, and we were mad.  I mean really frustrated.  I didn’t get that feeling from the team after San Diego State or even Kentucky.

There was time to think about it that night, too. We got back to the tiny airport after the game and found out that the charter plane wasn’t there.  The terminal was closed for the night. But this was still nearly a year before 9/11, so we simply got out of the buses and stood on the tarmac, watching the Texas skies waiting for our plane to get there.  I remember it was late coming from Las Cruces, New Mexico, so we all looked to the west and hoped. The temperature may have dropped to 96 by then, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

We finally left Waco knowing we’d at least have another shot at Baylor.  They had been the first 1-A team to sign a home-and-home with us, but the Tampa game never happened.  We haven’t played Baylor since that day in Waco 16 years ago.

The 1-A wins would come; we’d get Connecticut, a team transitioning to 1-A, about a month later.  The next year, we’d get Pittsburgh, Houston and Connecticut (again).

In my mind, Baylor was always the one that got away.  We out-passed them and out-rushed them that day, but four lost fumbles and 13 penalties sealed our fate.

The frustration of players and coaches as we waited in the middle of the night on that lonely tarmac showed the Bulls weren’t going to accept losing, no matter who they played.

After Waco, USF would win 29 of its next 40 games.  As time went on, it felt less and less like a coincidence.

 

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First person account: Remembering back to the Kentucky game, our offensive leader at the time, Charlie Jackson, had gotten suspended for an off-field incident with Kenyatta Jones and Rashod Durant. People may not remember that - but it really did change how we ran our offense. Charlie was a permanent fixture in our game plan early in the season and we just weren't at a point then where Hugh Smith or Chris Iskra were suitable replacements. It was like going into a game with only a portion of the playbook available to be utilized. Charlie knew the playbook like you know your own phone number. Smith and Iskra were still learning on the fly. They would eventually be better than Charlie, but at the time, Chuck was the man and we all knew it.

On the Baylor game, Jim Louk nailed it. If there ever was a winnable game that year that got away, it was Baylor. People only remember the final score. I remember Leavitt crucifying us on Monday for all the penalties and turnovers from that game. Practice that week definitely had a different feel. We knew we should have won that Saturday and the #1 team in I-AA was coming into our house that week. There was no way they were leaving our place undefeated after the Baylor loss. 

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On June 18, 2016 at 2:47 PM, The Sheriff said:

First person account: Remembering back to the Kentucky game, our offensive leader at the time, Charlie Jackson, had gotten suspended for an off-field incident with Kenyatta Jones and Rashod Durant. People may not remember that - but it really did change how we ran our offense. Charlie was a permanent fixture in our game plan early in the season and we just weren't at a point then where Hugh Smith or Chris Iskra were suitable replacements. It was like going into a game with only a portion of the playbook available to be utilized. Charlie knew the playbook like you know your own phone number. Smith and Iskra were still learning on the fly. They would eventually be better than Charlie, but at the time, Chuck was the man and we all knew it.

On the Baylor game, Jim Louk nailed it. If there ever was a winnable game that year that got away, it was Baylor. People only remember the final score. I remember Leavitt crucifying us on Monday for all the penalties and turnovers from that game. Practice that week definitely had a different feel. We knew we should have won that Saturday and the #1 team in I-AA was coming into our house that week. There was no way they were leaving our place undefeated after the Baylor loss. 

I remember as it was all over this message board. I believe it happened at McDonalds hangout on 56th street 

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