The potential of being a part of the first team in USF football history to reach 10 wins is something senior linebacker Nigel Harris could hardly imagine when the Bulls lost 53-21 to FCS McNeese State in his very first colligate game in 2013.
“They whooped up on us,” Harris said.
“I thought to myself then, ‘Wow, I really came here for this?’ You don’t expect that coming to a D1 school playing a I-AA, and them doing that to us. That’s when I thought we had some work to do at this program. As things went on, time got better.”
With a win Saturday afternoon against in-state rival UCF (6-5,4-3), Harris and the 18 other seniors on the USF roster have an opportunity to take the Bulls (9-2, 6-1) from the depths of a two-win season in 2013 to a record tenth win in 2016.
Harris credits what USF coach Willie Taggart said to him and the 18 other members of his now-senior class to get them to commit to being Bulls.
“Just being the guys to make history,” Harris said.
“That’s what he sold us on, is just making history and turning things around. Just being the stepping stone for guys in the future.”
As the Bulls prepare for their eighth all-time meeting with the Knights, Taggart said that nothing is more important than sending this senior class off with a win.
“These young men decided to come here, and when they first got here, they choose USF off of faith,” Taggart said.
“This is where they wanted to be…they wanted to turn this program around, and they said that is what they are going to do. For them to go through the struggle to get us to where we are at now, I only think it would be right for them to go out on top with 10 wins and the most wins in school history. That’d be pretty cool for those guys. Not only did they say they were going to do it, they got it done.”
Worth the weight
With the official inception of the “War on I-4” underway, the formal branding of the rivalry between USF and UCF, both universities came together to design and develop a new trophy to signify the in-state competition.
Making its debut at USF’s weekly press conference Tuesday, the 160-pound trophy will be given to the winner of each game and presented on the field to the victors. The winner will then hold on to the trophy until the next year’s matchup.
The two-piece prize is a large wooden base holding up a polished silver road sign with the logo of each school on either side. The 30-pound “street sign” is the piece that separates from the wooden base and is what will be presented to the winning team.