There’s a fine line between belief and reality.
For the USF football team, that line may have finally been crossed.
After sustaining a 42-3 beating at the hands of Arkansas Sept. 14, the Bulls (2-2) needed a confidence boost. The belief that they could beat No. 2 Oklahoma was there, but was it really feasible?
Following a scoreless first quarter between the two squads, perhaps belief has become reality for USF.
“After the game, a lot of people were saying, ‘Man, we could have beat those guys,'” junior running back DeJuan Green said. “I wonder what would have happened if we had that attitude coming in.”
And if a big-game performance on national television against the 2000 national champions can’t do that, then nothing probably will.
“We have to be confident in games,” sophomore quarterback Ronnie Banks said. “Lots of guys are confident that we can go in and win, maybe 65-70 guys, but everybody, the whole nucleus, has to be confident against big teams. That was what I was saying and trying to do on the sidelines.”
Banks had a confidence-inspiring exhibition, entering the game down 31-0 in the fourth quarter and firing two touchdown passes in the final two minutes.
The pitfall for the Bulls now is to keep up their guard as they head into the final seven games of the season. USF’s six remaining I-A opponents have combined for a 13-13 record, with 1-4 North Texas on the ledger Saturday.
USF coach Jim Leavitt insists, though, that overlooking the Mean Green is something that his team won’t do.
“This is a team that played in a bowl game last year and won the conference championship,” Leavitt said. “I would say that’s a pretty big game at their home. I mean honestly, you’ve got to win a lot of games in your conference to win a championship and to go to the New Orleans Bowl, and to have 20 starters back and playing in their home.
“If we play just as good as we played last week, we’ll probably get beat. … If you let down this week, then you’ll just get destroyed. This team is good.”
While the Mean Green are the defending Sun Belt Conference champions, that is a deceiving title. North Texas went 5-6 a year ago, the only team to go to a bowl with a losing record. In the New Orleans Bowl, Colorado State overpowered the Mean Green to post a 45-20 victory, leaving UNT with a 5-7 record after opening the season 0-5.
Adding insult was the fact that USF went 8-3 in 2001 and beat North Texas 28-10, but without conference affiliation, the Bulls were the ones sitting at home after the season.
“A bowl game is something everybody dreams of,” Green said. “A lot of teams with 8-3 records still went to bowls, and we had a better record than some teams that still went to bowls. It depends upon who the bowls want to play in their game, and us being a new team, we don’t get the respect we should.”
The sting of being bypassed for North Texas hurt some more than others.
“It was in my hometown, and I would have loved to play in New Orleans,” Banks said. “That kind of hurt. But we need to focus and limit our mistakes this week so we can go out and put on a show.”It better be a reality show, or the Oklahoma performance will be just another daydream.