Postseason hopes are still alive for the USF football team after Friday’s dramatic 24-17 double-overtime victory against conference rival Cincinnati.
The Bearcats had an opportunity to end USF’s season for the second straight year, but the Bulls battled back in the second half to force overtime and eventually took the game in double overtime. Last season, Cincinnati beat East Carolina at the end of the season, and it was speculated that if they had lost, USF would have been given an at-large bowl bid.
It was the Bearcats, however, that got robbed this year. Tied at 10 with 10 seconds left in regulation, Cincinnati lined up for the game-winning field goal, but the 41-yard attempt was blocked by wide receiver Huey Whittaker, who came off the bench with a sprained ankle.
“He came off the bench with a bad ankle, (but) we had to have him,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “He got hurt on Tuesday and we didn’t think he was going to be able to play, and then he comes out and plays the whole game. I mean you talk about courage.”
Whittaker may have been the savior of the first four quarters, but it was Lee Roy Selmon Jr. who would put an end to the game. After two overtime touchdowns, USF was on top of the Bearcats 24-17 and Cincinnati needed a touchdown to keep the game going. The Bearcats came out strong, but on first down from the 14-yard line, Selmon Jr., picked off Cincinnati’s Gino Guidugli, ending the game and giving the Bulls renewed bowl hope.
“I didn’t know he got the interception,” Leavitt said. “I said, ‘Who intercepted the ball?’ They said Lee Roy Selmon (Jr.) and I (said) ‘You got to be kidding me.’ So I told Maurice Jones that he was moving to D-line and that Lee Roy was going to go to linebacker.”
Friday’s game was USF’s second overtime this season and both times the Bulls have come out on top. USF was forced into double overtime against Louisville on Oct. 4 after blowing a seven-point lead.
“It is a scary situation,” Selmon said. “I never like to go into overtime. I would like to get out of there in four quarters and leave with the victory, but we were fortunate (Friday) to have overtime because we had to come from behind.”
USF, in its first nationally televised victory, never led in regulation Friday and was forced to make last minute heroics in order to get into overtime. Selmon said that this was much different than the Louisville game, because they had to scratch their way through the entire game.
“When the offense comes back like they did and set up the overtime, it puts a flame under us like ‘This is what we want, now we have to dig in and get it done,'” Selmon said.
Just because overtime has been good to the Bulls doesn’t mean that they have to like it.
“We got to stop doing this,” J.R. Reed said.
“(I don’t like overtime) a whole lot,” Alex Herron said. “It just takes too much off of you.”
And though this season’s overtime games have been tense, Selmon said their success so far this season in extra periods gives the team confidence should it face that situation again.
“So far, so good,” Selmon Jr. said. “Hopefully we can keep it that way. If it comes down to the wire like that, we definitely want to come out on top.”