The USF football team escaped last week’s Homecoming game against Cincinnati with a 24-17 double-overtime victory, leaving the Bulls hopeful in the 2003 season for the team’s first-ever bowl bid.
But just as USF had to struggle harder with its Homecoming game on the line, so is the case for ECU in this Saturday’s game when the Bulls travel to face East Carolina at 2 p.m for the Pirates’ Homecoming game.
“Especially with Homecoming, it’s definitely a game that no university wants to lose,” said senior defensive lineman Lee Roy Selmon Jr., who had the game-clinching interception against the Bearcats last Friday at Raymond James Stadium. “I know that they’re looking at us, and we’re a team that they want to have that victory over.”
The Pirates (1-8, 1-4 Conference USA), which arguably seem the weakest opponent remaining on USF’s schedule this season, have a few reasons why they would want to hand the Bulls (5-3, 3-2) a loss.
The first reason is, as Selmon stated, because it is the team’s Homecoming, and the team has zero wins at home this season. The second is the fact that USF handed ECU a 46-30 loss at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium last season, the only time these two teams have faced each other.
But the third reason is probably the most important. With a dismal record this season, the Pirates have no shot at a bowl bid. But a victory against USF would take the Bulls down with them, since the team must win its final three games this season to become bowl eligible.
“There is going to be a lot fueling this team,” Selmon said. “They definitely don’t like us, after going in there and beating them last year and choosing us for Homecoming this year.
“They know the goals we’re trying to achieve, and what better way would it be that to spoil it for us.”
The Bulls have their share of problems entering this game. The most notable one is at quarterback, where USF coach Jim Leavitt hasn’t inked in a starter.
Junior Ronnie Banks started against Cincinnati, but didn’t survive the first half. Do-everything junior Brian Fisher replaced Banks before the half, but then yielded to redshirt freshman Pat Julmiste, who tossed his second career touchdown pass to help spark a struggling USF offense.
And with the success of the latter two, and the confidence Leavitt still has in his opening-day starter, the decision on who will start may come down to the final seconds before game time.
“We’re working at it, and it may be at the coin toss,” Leavitt said. “All three have strengths. All three do some good things, and you may see all three depending on how the game goes and what happens, and that is really where it is at.
“I make mistakes all the time, and I’m trying to do like anybody else–trying to search and see what our best combination is right now.”
What could help the Bulls is the fact that they have one of the nation’s strongest defenses (13th overall), and it will be lined up against one of the nation’s worst offenses (108th overall), including next to last in total offense in the conference and the worst scoring offense in C-USA. However, those numbers could be deceiving.
The last time USF went up against the conference’s worst scoring offense, which at the time was Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles exploded for season-highs in points and yards, which eventually put USF in its current position of having to win out to possibly get a bowl bid.
But the Bulls aren’t looking at the numbers, whether they’re positive or negative ones. They are just focused on getting the next win, and they know each opponent from this point poses a significant threat to their season.
“I think we definitely need to take each week one week at a time,” Selmon said. “We need to look at each opponent like it’s not going to be a walk in the park, but definitely a fight.
“They’re not a team that is going to be a pushover; they’ve just had some misfortune within their season.”