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USF ties No. 12 SMU thanks to a 15-save day by Knight


On USF’s senior night, it was junior goalkeeper Christian Knight who stole the show with 15 saves against No. 12 SMU.

Despite 42 total shots taken between the teams after 110 minutes of play, USF (6-5-4, 3-1-2) and SMU (12-2-1, 4-1-1) finished tied at 0-0 in front of 627 fans at Corbett Stadium on Sunday.

One possibility for the surplus of shots — 28 for SMU, 14 for USF — was windy conditions throughout the match.

“It was the determining factor of the game,” USF coach Bob Butehorn said. “For no goals to go in, that’s very strange with that kind of wind — but I give credit to the keepers. I think we were a bit fortunate today.”

Starting with the wind blowing in their favor, the Mustangs peppered Knight with 14 shots in the first half. USF, on the other hand, had two — neither of which were close to being on target.

“They had (the wind) in the first (half), wore us down and they had chances,” Butehorn said. “We were so tired going into the second half having gone against the wind the whole (first half).”

USF outshot SMU 7-5 in the second half with the wind in its favor.

The Bulls came closest to taking the lead in the game’s second overtime period when forward Tomasz Skublak headed a ball on frame off a corner kick. The shot was on target from five yards out, but was parried away by SMU goalkeeper Michael Nelson.

The save was Nelson’s seventh of the game and preserved his eighth shutout of 2017.

“I thought Skublak ended it,” Butehorn said. “But that goalkeeper pulled something out of a hat.”

Two minutes later, Knight made his biggest save of the match, diving and punching away a SMU free kick that was headed for the top left corner with six minutes left in the match’s last overtime period.

“I watched video, so I guess I had an implication that he was going (top left) on the free kick,” Knight said. “I’m just happy I was there.”

If USF would’ve defeated SMU, it would’ve jumped the Mustangs and taken sole possession of first place in the AAC with one conference game to play.

The draw, however, keeps USF (11 points) in third place behind SMU (13 points) and UConn (12 points) in the AAC. USF could match SMU in total points with a win — and a SMU tie against UConn — in its final regular season game against Temple on Saturday.

Should that happen, USF would need to beat Temple by two goals to have the edge in goal differential. Regardless of what happens Saturday, the Bulls are locked into the AAC tournament, which begins on Friday, Nov. 10.

“Not every game is perfect, but that’s just how it goes,” Knight said. “I really believe we have the talent to absolutely dominate and score goals. Hopefully we get that started against Temple.”