“You can’t prepare for what either team had to go through today,” USF coach Skip Holtz said after Saturday’s win over Notre Dame, which featured nearly three hours of weather delays. “I don’t care, you can’t prepare.”
As the teams left the gridiron for halftime, the public address announcer told the crowd in the stadium that the game had been suspended due to severe weather in the area. The nearly 81,000 fans in attendance were instructed to evacuate the stadium and seek shelter in the adjacent Joyce Center – Notre Dame’s basketball arena – or nearby classroom buildings. The delay meant that halftime lasted two hours and 10 minutes.
It wouldn’t be the only evacuation of the day, as officials suspended the game for 43 minutes with 4:21 remaining on the clock.
While Holtz said you can’t prepare, the Bulls did benefit from a similar experience during training camp in Vero Beach.
As USF prepared for its first fall scrimmage Aug. 13, lightning flashes nearby sent the players back into the locker room. Once the scrimmage got under way, continued lightning suspended play for 90 minutes after just seven snaps. That experience was crucial for the Bulls, as they dealt with rough weather in South Bend, Ind.
“The first thing I said to them when I walked into the locker room (for halftime), I said, ‘Hey, we’ve been here before,'” Holtz said. “The players were in there saying, ‘Coach, we’ve been here before, we’ve got it, we’re all right, we’ve been here before.'”
Holtz said the team wasn’t informed that it was allowed to return to the field for an abbreviated warm-up session prior to the second half, instead finding out because Notre Dame was already on the field warming up.
“Our guys were laying on the floor, shoulder pads off and shoes off, and all of a sudden it was like, ‘Hey, let’s go,'” Holtz said.
Holtz beats ND
With the 23-20 win Saturday, Holtz became just the third Notre Dame alum to coach a team to a victory over his alma mater.
The two previous victors were Gerry Dinardo (’75), whose LSU team beat the Irish 27-9 in 1997 and Eddie Anderson (’22), who guided Iowa to a win in 1940.
Holtz said it was an emotional day for him as he returned to a place that holds special meaning for his family.
“I’ve got an incredible amount of memories in this stadium, at this university, as a student driving around campus,” Holtz said. “As soon as the buses got here, I took off and walked over to the grotto and lit a candle just because that’s how I got through college. I was lighting candles at the grotto. So I went over there and lit a candle and then walked back over here. A lot of emotional things – that was the dorm I lived in – going around, a lot of emotional moments for me.”
With his return to Notre Dame behind him, Holtz reiterated how proud he is to be a part of the USF family.
“Notre Dame is everything I always believed it was, and it was great to come back, and I have a great respect for this university and this institution, but I’m really proud of South Florida and the way these young men came in here and the way they competed, and it’s a step in the right direction.”
Odds and ends
USF won despite poor execution on third down, where the Bulls earned a first down twice in 14 attempts … Quarterback B.J. Daniels went 18-for-30 for 128 yards and one touchdown. He did not throw an interception … Wide receiver Sterling Griffin caught eight passes for 75 yards in his first game since sitting out the entire 2010 season … Kicker Maikon Bonani went 3-for-4, making kicks of 49, 17 and 36 yards. He missed a 52-yarder in the second quarter … Running back tandem Demetris Murray (40 yards) and Darrell Scott (33 yards) shared the ball well with 14 and 12 carries, respectively.