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Bulls face another Big East nemesis

USF coach Skip Holtz said Rutgers’ dominance of the Bulls in recent years has been a heavy topic of conversation for his team in the past two weeks as it prepares for a home game against the Scarlet Knights tonight at 7.

“You start hearing the numbers … I remind them daily,” said Holtz, who could lead the program to its 100th win with a victory. “It’s 80-16 over two years. You can come to work today or get ready to get embarrassed. This program has done it to us. They understand. Most of these players lived those experiences the last couple years against Rutgers.”

Last season, while ranked No. 24 in the USA Today/coaches’ poll, the Bulls were shut out 31-0 against the Scarlet Knights.

In 2008, the Bulls lost decidedly 49-16 at home, and in 2007, when the undefeated Bulls were ranked No. 2 in the country – the highest in school history – unranked Rutgers ended USF’s unprecedented run with a 30-27 win.

“That sticks with us,” senior defensive end David Bedford said. “And it goes all the way with them beating us when we were No. 2 in the nation. We have a lot of stinging losses (to Rutgers) and definitely want to get this one.”

Not only will the Bulls, who are one of five teams in the Big East with a 1-2 conference record, avenge their string of tough losses against the Scarlet Knights with a win, but they’ll also take one more step toward a bowl game. The Bulls, who have earned five straight bowl appearances, need two more wins to become bowl eligible.

Rutgers (4-3), meanwhile, is coming off a 41-21 loss at Pittsburgh and are currently third (1-1 in conference) behind the Panthers and Syracuse in the Big East standings.

USF sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels said he references last year’s game against Rutgers, when he went only 7-of-17 passing with two interceptions, but doesn’t dwell on it.

“As a freshman, I learned a lot from that game,” he said. “It will definitely help me a lot this year and even to move on from that game last year, watching film and I’m still watching it now, learning different things and questioning myself – why I did that and why I didn’t do this. But that’s in the past, and it’s just going to help me get better.”

As for revenge, Bedford said he wants to defeat Rutgers “about as much as we wanted that Cincinnati win because I had never beaten either.”

“We definitely want this one,” he said. “I want this one as a senior, never being able to beat them.”