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Last Year Was The Pitts; Bulls Out For Revenge

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PITTSBURGH - While the University of South Florida sleepwalked through its final game of last season against Pittsburgh, a member of USF's band fittingly was spotted on the Raymond James Stadium videoboard snoozing in the stands.

When USF's game -- and season -- mercifully ended in the 43-14 defeat, the Bulls left the field having absorbed the worst home loss in school history. Afterward, some Pittsburgh players donned sombreros to celebrate their Fiesta Bowl-clinching win.

"They beat the dog out of us," USF coach Jim Leavitt said.

USF finished last season by losing its final three games by an average of 22 points, but none stung like the loss against future Big East Conference member Pittsburgh.

"That game was the whole season in a nutshell," USF quarterback Pat Julmiste said. "We got our butts handed to us. We had a sour taste in our mouth all spring, all summer and all winter."

The Bulls (3-2, 1-0 Big East) get a chance to avenge last year's loss to Pitt (2-4, 1-1). But, more importantly, they can move a step closer to their first bowl bid and conference championship.

"You never liked to get whopped on like that," Leavitt said. "They beat us pretty good. A new year is a new year: different people and different players."

The biggest difference for the Bulls in 2005 has been their defense. In 2004, USF allowed at least 27 points in each of eight games. This year, USF hasn't allowed more than 23 in a game.

The Bulls' defense also allowed an average of 398 yards per game in 2004, including Pitt rolling up 448 through three quarters. This year the Bulls have the nation's 26th-best defense, allowing an average of 307 yards a game.

"Last year's game was a bad experience," USF running back Andre Hall said. "All I can remember is seeing their offense run up and down the field and their defense had a great front four.

"That was the worst experience. They ran up the score on us. [Quarterback Tyler] Palko and [wide receiver] Greg Lee had a great day."

Palko threw for 411 yards and five touchdowns. Lee, the former Chamberlain star, had eight receptions for 153 yards and three touchdowns.

The Panthers were expected to continue their winning ways this season, but have struggled so far under first-year coach Dave Wannstedt.

Pitt lost big to Notre Dame in its season opener, was upset at Ohio and held without a touchdown against Nebraska. The Panthers also fell behind at Rutgers 27-0 in a 37-29 loss.

Pitt's only wins have come against Division I-AA Youngstown State and Cincinnati, predicted to finish in the Big East cellar.

"They look pretty good, their defense is pretty strong," USF senior offensive guard Frank Davis said. "Their defensive line is pretty fast. We know we're playing a top team."

The Bulls, who pulled off a huge upset in 2001 as three-touchdown underdogs in their last visit to Heinz Field, can remain atop the Big East standings with a victory.

"Every win in the Big East is big. Everyone sees the Big East as a great deal of parity. We don't know until we go through the year. Every one game is a championship game, regardless. You better be on and play well each week if you think there is any hope at a championship. We need to play a great game because they are a very good football team.

"We might be a little better than we were last year. They did beat the dog out of us last year. It wasn't much of a game."


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