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USF seeks 150th win against ECU

Duran Bell Jr. high-steps his way into the end zone against Georgia Tech. He sat out during the Illinois game due to an ankle injury. ORACLE PHOTO/CHAVELI GUZMAN

After defeating back-to-back Power-Five opponents Georgia Tech and Illinois, USF football (3-0) opens its sixth season of AAC play against ECU on Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.

Saturday’s game — the 255th for the football program — could be historic for the Bulls.

With a win against ECU, USF would record its 150th win in program history. That would set a new record among Florida FBS teams for the quickest to 150 wins, surpassing the Gators, who accomplished the feat in 258 games — a record that was set in 1937.

“I think it’d be a pretty big game for the school and the program,” defensive end Kirk Livingstone said. “But it’s also important because it’s the very next game. ECU is a very good team and we just have to come out ready to play.”

The Pirates (1-1) are also coming off a Power-Five victory, although they’ve had to wait a while to play their next game. ECU defeated North Carolina 41-19 on Sept. 8. and haven’t played since.

ECU’s game last weekend at No. 13 Virginia Tech was canceled due to Hurricane Florence heading toward the Carolinas. While Virginia Tech wasn’t in the direct line of the storm, ECU was.

The Pirates found themselves in a similar situation to what USF went through last September when Hurricane Irma hit Florida.

“You sit here a year ago, what we were experiencing, how we were bracing ourselves for the hurricane,” coach Charlie Strong said. “Then you think about what has just happened in North Carolina and our hearts and prayers go out to those families and also the lives of 17 people that’s been lost.”

Clearly there were more important things for North Carolinians to worry about last weekend than football. But, much like when USF missed out on a game against UMass last season, last week will be a game ECU’s upperclassmen will never get back.

“I think it’s tough — not for the younger guys, but for the seniors,” Livingstone said. “That’s a game that they lose for their film or their resumes. So that’s definitely hard. After the season, there were guys that said that they wish they could have got the UMass game back. That’s really, really hard.”

Once the Virginia Tech game was canceled, the Pirates relocated to Orlando to wait out the storm. ECU coach Scottie Montgomery explained the team’s decision to evacuate low-lying Greenville, North Carolina, on the AAC’s weekly conference call.

“We really were trying to hang in there because we thought we were going to play the Virginia Tech game all the way up until Tuesday evening, Tuesday afternoon, somewhere in there,” Montgomery said. “Then we got the word that the decision was made, that the game was not going to be played and a couple of other games in our state were not going to be played. At that point in time, we wanted to make sure we gave our kids the best opportunity to be safe. At the end of the day, it was all about making sure that our kids were safe and that's what we based it all around.”

Mitchell Wilcox was able to relate to what ECU is going through, as USF’s tight end and his family had to evacuate last year as Irma approached the west coast of Florida.

“It’s a lot on your mind, for sure,” Wilcox said. “It’s always like — the fear and the thought of the unknown. My family and I, we have some elderly grandparents, we actually got them out of Tarpon Springs and went to north Georgia. It was kind of that deal where if the storm had kind of diverted at all, they would have been right in the eye of the storm. It’s just like the kind of unknowns.”

The Bulls and Pirates kick off Saturday at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNEWS.