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2003: If We Can Just Get to the Next Overtime...


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2003: If We Can Just Get to the Next Overtime...

 

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.

 

By JIM LOUK

Voice of the Bulls

TAMPA, JUNE 29, 2016 – The first year of conference play was memorable from start to finish. The first league game at Army was a great success for the Bulls, and marks the only appearance of USF Football on ESPN Gameday to date. Read about the Bulls most unusual pre-game HERE.

At season’s end, J.R. Reed came as close as any Bull ever has to single handedly delivering a USF victory. Read about J.R.’s big day HERE.

In between were three games that underscored the excitement of 2003; three games that set the tone for a program that would become known in this era for last-second heroics.

In the first seven years of USF Football, the Bulls played exactly one overtime game, a 42-41 win over New Hampshire in 1999. In 2003, they went to double overtime three times. All were in conference, and all were victories. 

The Bulls would go on to win every overtime game they played in until Nov. 5, 2011. The 2003 season was when the overtime legacy really took off.

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It began at home against Louisville on Oct. 4. After the teams traded overtime touchdowns, Santiago Gramatica ended it with a 26-yard field goal.

Just 27 days later, the Bulls hosted Cincinnati in an ESPN Halloween night game. A blocked field goal at the end of regulation preserved the game for the Bulls, and then DeJuan Green scored from 25 yards out in the second overtime to give USF the lead. Lee Roy Selmon Jr. intercepted a pass to seal it, and the Bulls had their second overtime win of the month.

Just eight days after that, it happened again. On the road against a one-win East Carolina team, the Bulls blew a 21-0 lead and went to overtime tied at 28-28. The teams exchanged field goals and then exchanged touchdowns, but East Carolina missed their extra point and the Bulls won, 38-37.

In a span of 35 days, the Bulls had gone to double overtime three times, and survived each time.

The East Carolina win was the sixth of the season, making us bowl eligible, but I don’t remember that being a big deal at the time. There were still a lot fewer bowl games then, and plenty of six-win teams got left at home. Before the season was done, the Bulls would tack on a seventh win, but it still wouldn’t be enough.

USF finished 7-4 overall and 5-3 in its first year of Conference USA. Even a winning record in a conference didn’t get the Bulls to their first bowl game.

There was a five-point win over Memphis and two three-point losses (TCU and UAB) in this season, too.  Add that to the overtime games and the Bulls may have played more close games in 2003 than any other year in their early history. Winning three in double overtime in such a short span of time added to the Bulls’ legacy of being a most unusual football program.

But the first bowl game had eluded us again, and unfortunately a step backwards that few if any of us saw coming was around the corner.

 

Link to story and previous entries in series

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I still have my USF sign on a wooden stick from the Louisville game in '03.  It's on the wall here in my office.  Wrote the date and the score on it.  Remember many students and fans (including me) rushing the field after that one.  

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