USF vs. Cincinnati: biggest home game ever?

USF is expecting one of its largest student sections in school history at Thursday’s nationally televised ESPN game between No. 21 USF and No. 8 Cincinnati.

On Tuesday, the initial 12,501 student ticket allotment for the game was completely allocated, and additional student tickets – which seat students in the upper bowl – are now on sale for $10.

This is the fourth time USF has maxed out its student allotment. The 2007 West Virginia game (12,496), the 2007 UCF game (12,501), and the 2008 Kansas game (13,499)
were the other occasions. USF won each of those games.

“(Thursday) is such a big game, one of the most important in the University’s history,” said Executive Associate Athletic Director Bill McGillis.

As of Monday, the USF athletic department said total ticket sales were around 53,000. Raymond James Stadium has a seating capacity of 65,587.

USF defensive end George Selvie said he wouldn’t expect anything less than a sellout.

“I’d be disappointed (if the game doesn’t sell out),” he said. “It’s a big game for us. It’s a Thursday night game (and there’s) no high school football going on. I think it will be filled.”

Many have compared Thursday’s game to the 2007 West Virginia game, when USF beat the then-No. 5 Mountaineers 21-13 on an ESPN Friday broadcast.

A series of “Breakfast with the bulls” appearances in the Tampa Bay area and today’s on-campus pep rally have been scheduled to promote even more interest leading up to Thursday’s game.

“How can you not be excited about all of this?” said USF coach Jim Leavitt. “I hope we do have a sellout. I hope it will be a great crowd. I know it helps, but when the ball is snapped, it’s still up to us. We still have to play.”

Receiving core adds weapon

Before he got injured in the spring, senior wide receiver Jessie Hester looked to be USF’s go-to receiver.

Hester led the team in receptions and yards last season. His 54 receptions were the second most by a USF wideout in a single season.

“It’s nice to have someone like that with experience and production,” said offensive coordinator Mike Canales. “The guy’s produced. He did some great things for us. Obviously, having him back in the offense gives us another weapon we can utilize.”

This year, Hester has only seen action in two games and has yet to catch a pass in his recovery from an ankle injury that kept him out for nearly six months.

The injury, which required surgery, slowed him through fall camp and the beginning of the regular season. On top of that, he also suffered a hamstring injury this season.

Canales said with Hester close to 100 percent, he should be involved in the offense against Cincinnati.

“You try to utilize him when you can, when the situation dictates,” he said. “He knows the situation. We’re not going to change our plan, just maybe scheme a little bit to get him mixed in there.”

Canales said Hester’s role in the offense would also benefit other receivers, including big-play options Dontavia Bogan, who is second on the team in receiving yards, and Carlton Mitchell, who leads the team with 377 receiving yards.

“You got two guys over there who are dependable, who can create some problems,” Canales said. “We have to see what the matchups are going to be and see if we can isolate a guy.”