The game was over the whistle blew, the camera crews left, the stadium emptied and the lights turned off.
But despite the feeling of finality, the Bulls ended Thursday with their goal for the remainder of the 2012 season still well in their grasp.
Despite a 23-13 loss to Rutgers in which the Bulls looked listless and shaky for large stretches of play and fell flat in front of a national audience once again, the team is one of six Big East teams without a conference win.
The 2005 West Virginia Mountaineers and 2009 Cincinnati Bearcats are the only teams to manage an undefeated conference season in Big East history. With talent spread across the conference, a 6-1 Big East record would likely be enough to achieve USFs ultimate goal, a conference title.
Coach Skip Holtz, though visibly upset and frustrated with the teams five turnovers Thursday night
pounding the podium to emphasize his displeasure with the teams five turnovers said the team still has an opportunity at the title.
You dont let a win this early make your season, Holtz said. And you certainly dont let a loss this early take away from the season that you have the ability to have.
Fans are familiar with the traditional annual collapse of the football team, with a conference loss, usually on a Thursday night on ESPN, setting off a long chain of frustrating losses and a disappointing season. But the scenario is not the same in 2012, and the Bulls have a chance to fix things in a big way.
Since 2007, when the yearly tumble began, the teams first Big East loss came in week five or later, with a large majority of the conferences teams having picked up multiple conference wins. A week three loss could be a blessing for a team looking to escape history.
The Bulls will now prepare to travel to Indiana, with a winnable game against Ball State (2-1) on Saturday. But their next matchup will be a game fans have circled since it was announced: the Bulls will host the Florida State Seminoles, who are ranked 5th in the nation and have a chance to move
into the top three before Sept. 29.
A win or close loss to an elite opponent could send the Bulls back into Big East play with momentum, where a game against new conference foe Temple awaits. In the Owls inaugural Big East year, the Bulls will have a chance to move back to .500 in conference play before their toughest test of the season, a road game against heavy-favorite Louisville.
In the past, the Bulls got off to a strong out-of-conference start before a marathon slate halted the
teams momentum and a relentless gauntlet of opponents allowed little to no breathing room for a
team spiraling downward. In 2012, the team has a chance to rewrite the recipe.
With a chance to be favorites in two of its next three games and a game against a nationally recognized
in-state opponent the kind of game USF has become notorious for winning lying ahead, the USF football team has its season goals in sight and may have the advantage of an early loss to snap it back