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2014: Are We There Yet?


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USF
 

2014: Are We There Yet?

August 05, 2016
By  USF
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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: 19th Edition (2014)

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By JIM LOUK

Voice of the Bulls

TAMPA, AUG. 5, 2016 – The 2014 season was USF’s the second in The American, and it was the year we thought the Bulls might break out.  It turned out we had a little longer to wait, but the journey to winning football progressed as the season went on.

The first game was memorable because of freshman Marlon Mack’s 275 rushing yards; our first glimpse of what a special player the Bulls had.  But USF got little out of its passing game, the defense gave up 454 yards, and the Bulls had to come from behind to beat FCS Western Carolina.  It was pretty clear there was still work to be done.  The Bulls won their conference opener for the second straight season, but four losses in five games would send them to Tulsa on Oct. 18 with a 2-4 record.

Tulsa was a foreign land for USF Football.  The program had never played there, and had never played the Golden Hurricane.  USF’s only appearance in the state was back in 2002, when it visited the Oklahoma Sooners. 

For the Bulls, the game was a chance to get healthy.  A win over 1-5 Tulsa would put USF at 2-1 in The American with another road game at Cincinnati coming up.

It was a beautiful day, clear with temperatures in the 50’s, and Tulsa’s artificial turf would play fast, a benefit to a speedy USF team.

The coin toss was great.  Then everything went wrong. 

By halftime, the Bulls were down, 27-7, and coming back would be a daunting task.  It had been six years since USF beat Kansas, erasing a 17-point deficit to set a school record for the biggest comeback win.  Now the Bulls had to come back from 20 points, and there were few signs that they had it in them.  Everywhere you looked, the first half numbers were bad.

Where do you go from here?

When you are rebuilding, as the Bulls no doubt still were in 2014, you look for signs.  Guys that don’t give up.  You hope that when players look at the scoreboard and see bad news, they get angry and determined, not depressed. 

In that second half in Tulsa, the Bulls had plenty of angry and plenty of determined.  The result was the greatest comeback win in Bulls history.

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Mike White threw three touchdown passes and Andre Davis caught three. Mack ran for another score. The Bulls took the lead on an 85-yard pass play in the fourth quarter and sailed to a 38-30 win.

It didn’t lead to a win streak; the Bulls went 1-4 from there to finish at 4-8.  And Tulsa wasn’t very good that year, finishing 2-10.

Doesn’t matter.

What does matter was that a Bulls team that had every opportunity to quit didn’t do so.  The talent and the depth on the field were improving, and just as importantly, the culture change was moving forward. 

Paraphrasing one of Willie Taggart’s beliefs; you’re either getting better or getting worse. No one stays the same. 

We left Tulsa believing the Bulls were getting better.

We weren’t there yet, and, to be truthful, it took a little longer after this win than I expected for it all to fall into place.

But fall into place it did.  The renaissance of the USF Bulls was underway. 

 

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Checked out on the 2014 season the week after the Tulsa game

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I really thought that Tulsa game was the turning point. There were so many close calls that year they just couldn't finish games.

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