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Former USF Greats Relive Bulls' Epic Upset Win at Ranked Notre Dame in 2011


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Former USF Greats Relive Bulls' Epic Upset Win at Ranked Notre Dame in 2011

FORMER USF GREATS RELIVE BULLS' EPIC UPSET WIN AT RANKED NOTRE DAME IN 2011

 

GAME 2 MATCHUP: USF (1-0) at No. 7/7 Notre Dame (1-0)
DAY & TIME: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.
TV: USA Network
RADIO: Over the Air: 1250 AM WHNZ & Digital: Bulls Unlimited
SERIES: Bulls lead series, 1-0, after 23-20 win in South Bend in 2011
GAME NOTES: USF (PDF) | Notre Dame (PDF)
 
 
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer

TAMPA, SEPT. 18, 2020 – From Tampa and all across the country, Bulls Nation will be tuned into USA Network on Saturday afternoon to watch a can't-miss battle between USF and the No. 7 Irish at Notre Dame Stadium.

Throughout the broadcast, you can count on seeing at least one flashback to the programs' first-ever meeting on Sept. 3, 2011. On that electric and lightning-filled Saturday in South Bend, the Bulls seized the lead in historic fashion with Kayvon Webster's 96-yard fumble return that sent shock waves throughout the sold-out crowd of 80,795 early in the first quarter..

Notre Dame game 2011"We never considered it an opportunity to go in there and get an upset. We just looked it as mano a mano," said Sam Barrington, a star linebacker for the Bulls from 2009-12. "… We just knew we had a tremendous opportunity to go in there and get a 'W.'"

USF kept flexing its muscles on the way to a 16-0 halftime lead and maintained its composure throughout two separate weather delays that combined for nearly three hours before putting the finishing touches on an epic 23-20 upset victory over then-No. 16 Notre Dame.

Nine years later, Barrington, Webster and B.J. Daniels – all starters who played pivotal roles - vividly remember the 2011 season opener like it was yesterday. All three former Bulls greats took time out of their busy schedules this week to relive one of the most cherished games in still young USF's 24-season history – a storied win against a tradition-rich school that started football competition in 1887.

"We were playing a team that had so much tradition and history with their program. For us, I'm older than our football team," said 30-year-old Daniels, a standout Bulls quarterback from 2009-12 who now is the head football coach at Lincoln High School, his alma mater in Tallahassee.

"To go in there and face a powerhouse in their stadium in front of a packed crowd, to deal with adversity, with the weather, I really felt like that was a group of men that was really trying to be Bull strong and play for each other," Daniels added.

Bulls Shine Early in Front of 'Touchdown Jesus'
Before all the gloom and boom the weather presented, USF's defense shined brightly and stole the show throughout in an awe-inspiring first half in South Bend.

USF vs. NDIn what many saw as a matchup of David vs. Goliath, college football giant Notre Dame marched 79 yards in just seven plays to reach inside the USF 1-yard line on the game's opening drive. The Bulls stood the tallest on third-and-goal, however, when 230-pound Irish back Jonas Gray rushed within and an arm's reach of the end zone and safety Jerrell Young swiped the ball out.

Webster seized the moment, scooping up the fumble and sprinting 96 yards downfield –  in front of a rowdy USF sideline - to the north end zone overlooked by Notre Dame's famous, 134-feet tall "Word of Life" mural. The iconic plays resonates to this day in the hearts and minds of Bulls fans.

"As soon I saw the strip come out, I just grabbed it and I was like, 'Ain't nobody catching me, I gotta go,'" said the playmaking USF cornerback (2009-12). "I was able to score a touchdown in front of 'Touchdown Jesus' and in front of all the USF Bulls fans who were there."

Webster soaked up the moment after his Deion Sanders-like dash through the very tall home-field grass. His play still stands as the longest defensive touchdowns ever in the Bulls' record books.
 
Two Maikon Bonani first-quarter field goals extended the lead to 13-0 before more defensive magic happened again, this time inside the USF end zone. Early in the second quarter, Webster broke up a potential Notre Dame TD pass and linebacker DeDe Lattimore looked smooth bringing in the first of USF's three interceptions on a five-takeaway day (turned night) for the Bulls.

Sam Barrington "We just went and got after the quarterback, put that pressure on him and forced him to have to get the ball out early," said Barrington, who racked up nine tackles in the game. "It was an amazing outing."

Cashing in on Notre Dame's third turnover, Bonani was money on another field goal attempt with 4:04 to play in the second quarter. Up 16-0, the Bulls confidently ran through the tunnel at halftime not knowing they'd have to "chill out for a little bit," according to Daniels.

What Did You Do All That Time?
Chilling required USF having to wait out a weather delay of 2 hours, 10 minutes during halftime.The length was kind of fitting because Irish officials said it was the first ever weather-related delay – home or away – for Notre Dame football, which is now in its 133rd season.

Weather delay Notre Dame game 2011Repeatedly hearing, "30 minutes!" until USF would retake the field, Barrington even fell asleep at one point in the locker room and woke up as someone alerted players with, "Now we're going out!" Daniels remembers riding a bike to keep his legs warm while USF's strength and sports medicine staffs kept players loose and fueled up.

"It wound up being a game full of adversity," Barrington said. "Heck, it didn't even look like they cut the grass for a month. They needed some way to slow us down. It was the heartbeat of the Bulls that day that helped us come out victorious."

Weather delay Notre Dame game 2011Winning vibes kept going, and so did musical jams in the locker room, after play was halted again by lightning at 8:41 p.m. with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter. It's probably safe to say this Saturday's USF-Notre Dame meeting will be much shorter than the 2011 marathon that started airing nationally on NBC at 3:40 p.m. and ended on the Versus network at 9:39 p.m.

"In the locker room, we just took our gear off and waited. We were just talking like, 'Man, we gotta bring this one home. Everybody is watching this. If you don't want to bring this home, ya'll need to walk out of the locker room right now,'" Webster said. "We went out of that locker room and we handled our business."

Please Hold
Although they had to handle being on hold for a long time twice, USF finished business in South Bend with what Daniels called "all-out effort."

B.J. Daniels"The offense took care of the ball. The defense took the ball away, and that's the name of the game," said Daniels, who went 18-for-30 through the air and totaled a modest 165 combined passing/rushing yards but had zero turnovers.

Neither did the Bulls as a whole, who fought hard for all of their 254 offensive yards against a formidable Notre Dame defense. Daniels did throw one TD pass and the play resembled the gritty performance of USF overall, especially around the goal line.

Prior to the second severe weather delay, the Bulls were clinging to a nine-point advantage when Daniels led a 14-play, 80-yard drive that bled 5:02 off the clock from the end of the third quarter into the fourth. The dual-threat QB capped things off by faking a run, then pump faking, and then somehow finding tight end Evan Landi through a turned-around linebacker for a 2-yard TD connection deep in the Irish end zone.

Daniels called it a "Tebow-esque" kind of play.

Evan Landi"They were expecting me to run it in as a quarterback draw. We kind of sucked up the defense and hit a little dump pass to Evan," Daniels explained. "It was one of those very tight window kinds of throws with the defender's back turned. Evan located the ball and kind of tapped his knees and his feet in, right in the back of the end zone, right in front of the student section. That was awesome."

So was how USF sealed the deal after the second delay.

The scoreboard was stuck at USF 23, Notre Dame 13 with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter for 43 real-life minutes until the clock started again.

By then, the defense showed it could instantly rev back up when early hero Jerrell Young intercepted a Tommy Rees pass on the first play after the delay. USF's fifth takeaway pretty much ensured the Bulls of a monumental victory because Notre Dame didn't get back into the end zone until only 21 seconds remained.

A 'Beautiful' Ending, Honoring LRS
Barrington called the sound of the final whistle "beautiful."

Notre Dame game 2011"Even though we were ahead in the game, it was that relief, like, 'Hey, it's done and now we can put this in the history books,'" he said. "Not only did we come out and do a good job, USF is gonna always be remembered for this game. That was important. We did something for the history of this school."

"The sky was red, purple and blue, and we came out with a win," said Daniels of the picture he saw in the sky during the weather-filled evening in South Bend. "Our fans there were ecstatic who stayed around for the game."

It also was a bittersweet experience because a special person to the USF family wasn't there for Skip Holtz's grand return to Notre Dame.

Paul Griffin, Lee Roy Selmon, Betty Castor (1994)Legendary Lee Roy Selmon, who helped get the USF football program started, was originally supposed to be in South Bend. Unfortunately, Selmon was hospitalized the night before after suffering a stroke in his Tampa home.

"His spirit that day was with USF and that was one of the reasons we actually went out and won," Barrington said. "That was very big."

Sadly, USF's former athletic director and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' beloved Pro Football Hall of Famer died at the age of 56 the day after the Bulls' victory.

"He was a major influence in my life. He was a man of his word. He was a man of integrity," Daniels said. "When I was a young freshman when he was on campus, he was one of the guys who really tried to make me feel at home, who really tried to make sure everybody was taken care of. I really enjoyed him."

Notre Dame game 2011Sporting his glowing smile, Selmon would certainly have been proud of what USF accomplished against the 16th-ranked Irish back in 2011.

He'd also be looking forward to the next huge opportunity that awaits new head coach Jeff Scott's Bulls. On Saturday, they'll seek the school's highest ranked road victory if lightning can strike twice - not any bolts from the sky, please - against the No. 7 Irish this time around in South Bend.

"I think everybody who went to USF is ecstatic about this game coming up because we're 1-0 against a powerhouse team," Webster said.

Daniels is a big fan of what the underdog Bulls are doing moving forward, regardless of if USF leaves Notre Dame Stadium with another massive victory or not.

"I'm really pleased with the direction and the leadership of Jeff Scott and what he's doing for the program," he said. "It seems as though he's brought some sort of juice and energy to the city of Tampa and to these young men, and they're feeding off of it."
 
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The nostalgia is strong with this one.  Especially LRS and old school colors.  

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