Quest for bowl game begins

After practice last week, Jim Leavitt joked that every off-season he and the assistant coaches go bowling. At the conclusion of this season, they would all like to do a different kind of bowling — one that is, to them, not a laughing matter.

Reaching a bowl game is something the team hasn’t done in its short history, but is surely something the Bulls would like to do before joining the Big East in 2005.

“Bowl games are always one of our team goals,” Leavitt said. “We’d sure like to go to a bowl game.”

A win over Division I-AA Tennessee Tech on Saturday would help USF in its quest for a bowl game even though the Golden Eagles are a I-AA team.

To be eligible for a bowl, teams need six wins over I-A opponents. But Tennessee Tech is bowl-certified and would still count as one of the six wins needed. That’s because once every four years, teams can use a win over a certified I-AA opponent, provided the opponent averages 60 scholarships over the past three seasons.

In 2003, USF won seven games but was not eligible because two wins came against Division I-AA opponents Nicholls State and Charleston Southern, who were not certified.

Tennessee Tech is the only I-AA team on USF’s schedule this year. The Bulls have had much success playing I-AA teams. The Bulls have won 23 consecutive games against I-AA teams and are 21-2 all-time against I-AA foes at Raymond James Stadium.

Leavitt doesn’t want his players to think about bowl games during the season, though.

“If you start thinking about a bowl game (during the season),” Leavitt said, “you’re not going to do well play by play. (Playing in bowl games) is a byproduct of playing good football.”

Tennessee Tech is not coming off one of its better seasons. The Golden Eagles went 2-9 in 2003.

USF is still trying to get focused after its opener was postponed because of Hurricane Frances.

“You would always like to have a game under your belt at this point because you would know a little bit more about yourself,” Leavitt said. “You would know about some of the things you can do and improvements that you need to make, so I think that is always an advantage.”

The upside: Starting quarterback Pat Julmiste has limited game experience heading into this season. so the extra week before the season opener will only benefit the sophomore, according to quarterback coach Rod Smith.

“More work for him is better, obviously,” he said. “More work for all my quarterbacks is better.”

Julmiste, who took the starting job from Ronnie Banks last season, has two career starts and 29 career completions.

“As far the work for the quarterbacks, I could use all the (extra time),” Smith said. “Giving those guys extra reps definitely will not hurt them. But we’ve got to get quality reps. We have to make sure we’re not wasting reps. We have to be able to focus on every play.”

Free tickets: Active firefighters, police officers and military servicemen and -women can all receive a complimentary ticket for Saturday’s game in recognition of the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedies.

In addition to a complimentary ticket, they may purchase up to four additional tickets at half price for friends and family. Tickets must be purchased in advance this week at the Athletics Ticket Office (Entry 3 of the Sun Dome) any weekday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. or at the stadium on game day. Active police, military or firefighter ID must be shown.