When the USF football team travels to face Memphis Saturday in its final game of the 2003 regular season, there may be a different feeling among players and coaches when game time finally arrives.
That’s because, for the first time in more than a month, the Bulls (6-4, 4-3 Conference USA) won’t be playing with the hopes of attaining a bowl bid. That dream was shattered during last Saturday’s 22-19 loss to UAB, which has undoubtedly affected the entire team.
“Just like anything, when you invest a lot and you get it taken away in the way it was the way we battled back, it’s human nature that it’s tough,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “You can’t just kid yourself that guys are automatically just going to move on.”
But it’s simply what the Bulls must do — move on. And it could be a difficult challenge, not only for the players trying to regroup after an emotional loss to the Blazers, but because of their opponent.
The Tigers (8-3, 5-2) are one of the hottest teams in the conference, having won five consecutive games. But Leavitt has reminded his team that there is still something to play for this weekend, even if a bowl possibility isn’t one of them.
“Our guys have a lot there. They can finish up in the top-half of the conference, which I think would be pretty good,” Leavitt said. “The last game of the year, you always want to go out and play well.”
Heading into the Bulls’ final game, the quarterback situation is still unresolved. Junior Ronnie Banks was withdrawn against UAB just before the first half ended due to an injury. He was replaced by red shirt freshman Pat Julmiste, who threw three interceptions and completed just six of 16 passes.
Leavitt said he would not split time evenly between the two quarterbacks in the Bulls’ final game or tweak the offense. Leavitt also did not name a starter.
“I’m unsure about that a little bit,” Leavitt said. “It doesn’t seem to matter. The last two games that one starts necessarily isn’t the one who is going to play most of the game. Whoever we feel like is moving the ball (will play).”
But going into the final game of the season, Leavitt simply wants his players to put forth the same effort they’ve put on all season, no matter what awaits the Bulls following this game.
“The thing I want our guys to do is just give it a great effort and go after it,” Leavitt said. “These guys have great character and they have great resiliency. I think what you can say about South Florida is, you can say that this football team really doesn’t quit. I don’t think we’ve done that much.”