For the South Florida football team, fate seemed to fail last Thursday night.
At the end of the Bulls’ 30-27 loss, Rutgers fans stormed the field, trampling USF’s dream of an undefeated season.
As they walked off the field, the Bulls players dodged the rushing masses of red, realizing what had been lost.
Ray Rice and company had just run off with the script for the greatest story ever told.
The talking had started quietly, with the Bulls’ overtime upset at Auburn last month, and grew louder as they continued to win. After the team’s home win against West Virginia raised USF to No. 6, it became a roar.
USF’s ascent to the ranks of the college elite seemed to fit right in with the craziness that has been college football this season.
As the weeks passed and more top 10 teams went down, the Bulls became a team of destiny and the college football story of the year.
Last week, when the smoke cleared from unheard-of losses by both No. 1 LSU and No. 2 California, South Florida football – at the tender age of 11 – was ranked No. 2 in the nation.
What had been a conference matchup between two of the Big East’s top teams became a national stage – where USF was supposed to prove it was worthy of the nation’s No. 2 ranking.
So, after everything had been pointing toward a season of destiny for the Bulls this season, why did they lose Thursday night?
They lost because college football is not a Hollywood movie.
The Bulls haven’t won six games this season because they were destined to. They won the games because they were the better team each night.
On Thursday, USF faced a very good Rutgers team that – at 4-2 overall and 0-1 in the Big East – knew it had to win to keep its postseason hopes alive. And, for the first time this season, USF didn’t play like the better team.
Now, if the Bulls hope to rebound from the toughest loss in the history of the program, they will have to realize that -despite the way things had fallen into place for them until Thursday night – destiny alone will not take them to the promised land.
Forget the dramatics. Forget the magic.
If USF goes out for every game and plays like the better team, it can still make history.
The Big East Conference is wide open and if the Bulls win out, chances are good that they will play in a BCS Bowl game – something no other program has done in a shorter period of time.
While the loss to Rutgers is sure to resonate for a while, the Bulls have been given the chance to bounce back quickly.
On Saturday, USF travels to Connecticut to take on the No. 23 Huskies, the only ranked team left on their schedule. A win against Big East-leading Connecticut would move the Bulls into a tie for first in the conference and a loss by Rutgers (who plays No. 7 West Virginia on Saturday) would once again put South Florida in control of its own destiny.
Fate might not always follow the script, but sometimes it sets the stage for redemption perfectly.