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July 17, 2008The transformation of the South Florida football program over the last few years has been incredible. They have gone from a commuter school in Tampa, Florida that was never considered a major threat, to a team that has challenged for a BCS bowl in the last two seasons and even earned a ranking as high as number 2 at one point.
The Bulls went 9-4 in 2006, falling one win short of a bowl victory. In 2007, they continued to build off of that success, starting 6-0. However, things took a bad turn for the Bulls as they lost three consecutive games, including a 38-33 defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Bearcats on November 3rd.
This season will mark the sixth time these two schools have met on the gridiron, with Cincinnati holding a 3-2 advantage over the Bulls. The Bulls last win over Cincinnati came in 2005, in what was the first year in the Big East Conference for both schools. When they meet this year, a Big East championship could very well hang in the balance.
The following is a recap of the 2007 season for the South Florida Bulls:
What Went RightA lot went right for the Bulls in 2007, but we will start by focusing on the offensive side of the ball. Specifically the leader of the offense, quarterback Matt Grothe. Grothe provided a pretty reliable signal caller for the Bulls, and was also a solid threat on the ground. He completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2670 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was also the Bulls leading rusher. He carried the ball 198 times for 1138 yards and 10 scores.
Mike Ford carried most of the rest of the load for the Bulls running game. He carried the ball 138 times for 679 yards and got into the end zone 12 times. He was a very reliable option for the Bulls on goal line situations, and often took the attention off of quarterback Matt Grothe, allowing for successful option plays.
The defense was great in the turnover department. They intercepted opposing quarterbacks 23 times, and also recovered 19 fumbles. This allowed the offense to often begin in very good field position. All American cornerback Mike Jenkins played a big role on defense, along with Trae Williams, who intercepted 6 passes on the season.
Ben Moffitt and George Selvie were two elite defenders for the Bulls, and helped shut down opposing running backs all season. Selvie was one of the top pass rushers in the nation, finishing with a very impressive 14.5 sacks.
What Went Wrong
None of the Bulls overall team numbers stand out as something that went completely wrong for the Bulls in 2007, so it took some digging beyond the numbers to figure out what exactly caused the Bulls 4 losses on the season, including an embarrassing 56-21 loss to Oregon in the Sun Bowl.
In the Rutgers game, USF fell victim to multiple trick plays, and their pass defense was vulnerable. Rutgers ran two trick plays on special teams, which led to 10 Rutgers points. This was the difference in the game.
In the Connecticut loss, it was the rush defense that showed its weaknesses as Connecticut running back Andre Dixon carried the ball for a career high 167 yards. The Bulls did have an opportunity to win with less than two minutes left. The Bulls decided to go away from the rushing game, which had been their bread and butter all season, and attempt a pass which fell incomplete ending the game.
In a thrilling game versus Cincinnati, the Bulls basically lost the game in the first quarter. The Bearcats scored 31 points, including 24 unanswered, to take a commanding 31-14 lead into the 2nd quarter. The Bulls outscored the Bearcats 19-7 the rest of the way, but they could not climb out of the hole they dug so early in the contest.
Quarterback Matt Grothe also threw 14 costly interceptions, a number which will need to go down in order to succeed. A touchdown to interception ratio of 1:1 will not get the job done.
Why This Year Will Be Different
USF will return 10 starters on offense, including quarterback Matt Grothe. Look for the offensive production to not only stay the same, but to increase with the added experience for the players.
It's the defensive side of the ball that has the most question marks for the Bulls. They will need to replace the production from cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams, both of who were selected in the NFL draft. Jenkins was a first round selection. Linebacker Ben Moffitt is also gone.
The Bulls have an early season matchup versus Kansas in 2008, and a win could gain them the attention of the nation just like their win versus Auburn did in 2007. If the Bulls can get a quick start to the season, and maintain that success through the grueling Big East schedule, they will find themselves in the hunt for a Big East title, and possibly even a National Championship.
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