Pat Julmiste strolled up to the entrance of the athletic facility wearing a camouflage fatigue cap. Somehow it seemed fitting.
For two weeks, the junior quarterback has been preparing for an important conference game against Army. While the Bulls had an idle week to prepare for their homecoming game, the Black Knights were busy ending the nation’s longest losing streak (19 games) with a win over Cincinnati.
Julmiste doesn’t want to be the second consecutive team to lose to Army, which hasn’t won two games in a row since 1997. But he seems confident and said he learned a lot watching film during the week off.
“They’re riding high,” Julmiste said. “If you don’t come in prepared they will sneak up on you. You can’t look at their record. They hustle every day.”
Army (1-4, 1-2 C-USA) didn’t win a game in 2003 and has lost 19 of its last 20 football games — but comes off a 48-29 win over Cincinnati.
Which Black Knights team will show up Saturday?
The win over Cincinnati was convincing. The Black Knights produced 554 yards of offense and six touchdowns. Fullback Tielor Robinson, C-USA’s Offensive Player of the Week, scored five of Army’s touchdowns.
Whichever Black Knights team comes to play, one thing is certain: A USF win brings the Bulls one step closer to a bowl game, something sixth-year player Lee Roy Selmon, Jr. understands all too well.
“Every game in Conference USA is important,” said Selmon, a team captain. “You can’t overlook Army because they will come down and beat you in your hometown.”
Making a bowl game and winning the conference championship is still the team’s priority, Selmon said. A win against the Black Knights would give the Bulls three wins on the season. They need 6 to be bowl eligible.
Selmon doesn’t think a win this week will be that easy.
Army brings a revamped offense this season. Under new coach Bobby Ross, formerly of the Detroit Lions and the San Diego Chargers, the rushing attack has improved mightily.
“I definitely see a team that has done a complete 180 from last year,” Selmon said.
In 2003 the Black Knights finished with the worst rushing offense in the nation, averaging only 90.5 yards per game. But entering Saturday’s game, Army (1-4 conference) averages 183.2 yards a game, good enough for the No. 34 rushing attack in the country.
“They’re a lot different (than in 2003),” coach Jim Leavitt said. “They’re very physical. They run the ball extremely well. They’re very efficient. Of course, they have had a number of guys that have been in their program now and they’re playing with great confidence and all those things. So, they’re a very good football team now.”
Leavitt said he is always impressed when playing a team with tradition like Army’s, who has been playing football since 1890.
Another reason Army is special to the Bulls is last year’s encounter: USF beat Army 28-0 at West Point in its first C-USA game.
“Their history is tremendous, obviously,” Leavitt said. “And last year was a big game because it was our first Conference USA game that we had ever played. So that was real big, and certainly in their stadium that was real significant. Every game is huge; every game is big; every game is important.”
USF (2-2, 1-1 C-USA) comes off a 27-20 loss to conference-leading Southern Miss. If the Bulls are to stay in the hunt for the conference championship, they likely need to win all of their remaining games.
An easy win this week would help, but even considering the 19 consecutive games Army lost, Leavitt said he expects a close game.
“We beat Cincinnati in double overtime a year ago,” Leavitt said. “They just beat Cincinnati by three touchdowns. They’re a pretty good football team.”