USF Bulls’ dream deferred

While fans rush the field George Selvie and other Bulls players leave Rutgers Stadium on Thursday after losing to the Scarlet Knights 30-27 . ORACLE PHOTOS/JOSE LOPEZ JR.

PISCATAWAY, NJ – In a season that has featured numerous unprecedented events for the USF football team, Thursday night’s loss to Rutgers proved no different.

In front of a stadium-record 44,267 fans, the Scarlet Knights defeated the No. 2 Bulls 30-27, thanks to several first-time events for South Florida this season.

After holding its first six opponents to an average of 106 yards per game, the USF defense allowed Rutgers running back Ray Rice to run for 189 yards. It was the first time the Bulls had allowed a 100-yard rusher since Rice ran for 202 yards against them last year.

“They ran the ball on us pretty good,” cornerback Trae Williams said. “They moved the ball up and down the field. We just weren’t able to stop them tonight.”

When the Bulls were able to contain Rice, the Scarlet Knights found a way to move the ball through the air.

Despite completing only 11 of 39 attempts in the game, Rutgers’ quarterback Mike Teel was able to connect with receiver Tiquan Underwood five times for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

Teel’s success had a lot to do with the amount of time he had in the pocket.

For the first time this season, Bulls defensive end George Selvie – the nation’s leader in sacks with 11.5 – failed to reach the opposing team’s quarterback. The Bulls defense, which had recorded 20 sacks in six games this season, couldn’t manage to reach Teel at all in the game.

“We made the key plays tonight to get us the win,” Teel said. “We came out and got back to what we do best.”

On offense, Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe spent most of his time trying to avoid an aggressive Rutgers defense. The sophomore quarterback ran for 118 yards in the game but finished with a net gain of 58, losing 60 yards on a season-high seven sacks.

“We didn’t protect real good,” Leavitt said. “Matt might have hung onto the ball too much, but they’re a good defense.”

In a game full of disappointing firsts for the season, the final scene from the game was another unprecedented event for the Bulls’ program.

As the final seconds ran off the clock, the Rutgers’ fans swarmed out of the stands onto the field, celebrating their upset of the nation’s No. 2 team. It was the first time in USF history that an opposing crowd had given the Bulls enough respect to rush the field.

Despite the fact that the Bulls will surely lose their No. 2 ranking after the loss, Leavitt insists the team’s preseason goal of winning the Big East Conference is still very possible, and the coach feels that a game like the Bulls played against Rutgers helps to prove that the Big East Conference is one of the best in college football.

“The Big East is a tremendous conference,” Leavitt said. “Boy, if people out there saw this game, they would think it was an unbelievable game with unbelievable plays and highs and lows. For the fans watching, it’s unbelievable, but for a coach watching it, it’s a little bit of a strain.”