Some may call the USF football team’s season finale against Pittsburgh meaningless, but ask the players and they’ll disagree.
The Bulls have already been guaranteed a losing season and in doing so lost the opportunity to go to a bowl game. The Panthers come in with at least a share of the Big East title and already have their bags packed for a (likely) BCS bowl game.
So can the Bulls find meaning in an otherwise meaningless game?
“There’s a lot of meaning to it,” said quarterback Pat Julmiste.
For one, many players are fighting to keep starting spots as the Bulls move to the Big East after what has been a disappointing season. Julmiste is one of those players.
The sophomore is tenth in Conference USA with 144 yards passing per game and is not in the top 11 in passing efficiency (105.34). Julmiste has completed 106 of 226 passes this season (46.9 percent) and has thrown seven touchdowns and six interceptions. The numbers aren’t impressive, especially for a team known to employ a spread-the-field passing offense.
Combine his subpar play with the fact that USF looks to bring in a slew of scholarship quarterbacks next season and there may be some pressure on Julmiste to play well. The Pittsburgh game is his last chance to impress.
“Obviously you want to go out on top and go out on a good moment,” Julmiste said. “That is key. I want to go out and have a good performance my last game this season before going to the Big East.”
One positive for Julmiste is his ability to rush for touchdowns. He has nine this season.For USF’s seniors, whether they play well or not, this is their final shot.
“It’s the last game for people like me,” senior center Alex Herron said.
Staples in USF’s lineup, like defensive tackle Lee Roy Selmon Jr., Herron, lineman Derrick Sarosi and running back Clenton Crossley will strap it up one last time.
USF coach Jim Leavitt will say goodbye in a more subtle way.
“I don’t think they need a moment in time where we’re dancing on ice to bring out the nostalgic atmosphere,” Leavitt said. “They know how I feel about them. They’re all good guys. Our senior class has battled. I have no issue with any players, no seniors. The guys on this football team have done everything I’ve asked of them. They’ve been great.”
Besides getting an early jump on the Big East next season, a win could stand as one of the bigger wins in the program’s history.
“It’s exciting,” Leavitt said. “You have a national TV game on Saturday against a team that won the Big East, or tied for the Big East Championship. We’re going to see the best in the Big East right now.”
So whether it’s about Julmiste, the seniors, going to the Big East or just beating a ranked opponent, the USF players have found meaning in 2004’s final game.
“There’s a lot of proving to do,” Herron said. “There wouldn’t be anything greater than to come out this week against the best of the best of the conference that we’re going into next year and knocking off that team and setting a statement.”