St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather

printer version

Loss leads to better days

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002

In the cornfields of DeKalb, Ill., in August 2001, South Florida lost a football game. Yet the USF program took a big step forward.

Not that many noticed. DeKalb produces delicious sweet corn and tons of soybeans, not marquee college football.

So when USF negotiated the Midwestern back roads to play Northern Illinois on a Thursday night in the 2001 season opener, the 20-17 loss registered a yawn in the college football universe.

But it resonated with the Bulls.

USF, with just four years of football under its belt, was making the leap to Division I-A against an NIU team that is no directional-school pushover. The Huskies have had back-to-back winning seasons, and last season, they scared Sugar Bowl-bound Illinois in Champaign, losing 17-12.

Heading to NIU, USF was a 171/2-point underdog expected to be churned into the ground by the Huskies' potent rushing attack.

Instead, the Bulls attacked from the outset, surprising NIU with their no-huddle offense, quick tempo and speed.

Two long Marquel Blackwell-to-DeAndrew Rubin touchdowns helped USF to a 17-7 third-quarter lead. NIU clawed back, and a late field goal tied it at 17. Another as time expired gave the Huskies the victory. It was a loss and a victory for the program. Maybe USF had believed it could go into a legitimate I-A venue and come out on top. Now the Bulls knew they could.

Nine days later, they did. USF traveled to Pittsburgh and whipped it 35-26. It is the biggest victory in school history, but the seeds were planted in DeKalb.

USF hosts Northern Illinois on Saturday. How far has it come since a year ago? USF is a 71/2-point favorite despite NIU's victory over Wake Forest last week.

Some of the point swing can be attributed to the home field, but some also must be credited to the confidence instilled in last season's defeat.

Even if almost no one noticed.

EMPTY SEATS: Maybe a game against Division I-AA Florida Atlantic was uninspiring. Perhaps playing on Thursday night wasn't appealing. The projected rain might have scared off some folks.

Whatever the reason, the attendance at USF's opener, 22,074, was below expectations.

This week might not be much better despite a solid opponent. The specter of the Florida-Miami game, which starts at 5 p.m., might cause some to bypass the 7 p.m. USF-NIU game. It also could result in a late-arriving crowd.

BIG TIME: It won't be on a major network or ESPN, but USF could make its first national television appearance Sept.28 at Oklahoma. Fox Sports Net and TBS, which choose Big 12 games after ABC has selected, might grab USF-Oklahoma for national broadcast. (ABC likely will pick Nebraska at Iowa State.)

The decision will be made after the USF at Arkansas game Sept.14.

Big 12 members Colorado, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are off, and Texas Tech plays the night before, improving the likelihood USF-Oklahoma will be selected.

"There's a chance it will happen," USF sports information director John Gerdes said. "Twelve days out (Sept.16 in this case) the networks choose which games they want, then the others choose."

All road games will be televised. Fox Sports Net will broadcast East Carolina (Oct.19) and Houston (Nov.23) regionally, and WMOR-TV 32 will carry Arkansas (Sept.14), North Texas (Oct.5) and possibly Oklahoma. Also, Fox Sports Net will air the Oct.12 Southern Miss game at 7 p.m. Oct.14.

AS BILLED: Heralded freshman Hunter West quickly made his presence felt for the men's soccer team. In the opener last weekend against Stetson, West scored the game's lone goal. USF hosts East Carolina in its Conference USA opener at 7 p.m. Saturday.

-- Pete Young covers USF sports. He can be reached at (813) 226-3346 or via e-mail at

Back to Sports
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Contact the Times | Privacy Policy
Standard of Accuracy | Terms, Conditions & Copyright

From the Times sports desk

U.S. Open Tennis
  • Sampras whips the kid
  • First Hewitt-Agassi match was a stunner
  • Davenport and Mauresmo up against Williams wall

  • On the Net
  • Tennis sites top NFL in searches

  • Colleges
  • 'Canes' DBs face big test
  • State practice reports
  • Silence isn't golden for DTs
  • Loss leads to better days
  • Beavers cruise to victory
  • Around the Nation

  • Baseball
  • AL: A-Rod reaches 50 HRs in rout
  • NL: Four-run first helps Schilling get 22nd win
  • Baseball notebook
  • Streak is nice, but A's want division

  • Motorsports
  • Stewart nips Harvick for rare Truck victory

  • NFL
  • 49ers win season opener
  • Around the NFC
  • Around the AFC

  • Sports on TV, Radio
  • Fox trio of announcers paving way to top spot

  • Preps
  • Mitchell promotes JV coach
  • Bears open with victory
  • New Chiefs, same dreams
  • Why run when they can fly?

  • Etc.
  • In brief
  • UT ready to honor its best

  • Outdoors
  • Daily fishing report

  • NFL Football preview 2002
  • Light up the cannons and hold your ears
  • Gimme Five
  • Gruden's path littered with historic hurdles
  • League site gives fans what they want
  • Bucs by the numbers
  • Kiffin's in charge of the defense, as always
  • Bucs Q&A
  • What to bring and what to leave home
  • Dilger site knocked off-line by Sept. 11
  • NFL Q&A
  • New rules
  • NFC South capsules
  • Confidence still strong despite loss of talent
  • Saints notebook
  • Bucs coaches
  • Falcons Notebook
  • So fast, they're scary
  • Buccaneers defensive capsules
  • Buccaneers offensive capsules
  • The Florida Keys
  • 'I am making a guarantee'
  • Staff predictions
  • Buccaneers at a glance
  • Bucs: High Hopes
  • Coaching changes
  • On the road with the Bucs
  • Team by team breakdown
  • Dolphins: For the fans
  • No more excuses for Miami
  • New NFL stadiums
  • Jacksonville looking dim without its stars
  • Jaguars: For the fans
  • NFL: By the numbers
  • What they're saying about the Bucs
  • What they're saying about the Dolphins
  • What they're saying about the Dolphins
  • What's past is past for Panthers, unless you hang on for motivation
  • Panthers: Special teams must keep scoring points

  • Prep football preview 2002
  • 4A-6 DISTRICT PREVIEW: Defending champ faces tough road
  • Losing season doesn't sit well with Hawks
  • Team's continued rise depends on cohesion
  • Graduation forces Spongers to ''reload''
  • Barons look forward to tough schedule
  • New-look Warhawks boast lofty goals
  • New Pats coach plans plenty of changes
  • Devils welcome fresh cast of characters
  • 'Canes in playoffs? Not that far-fetched
  • Explosive Felton to carry Warriors' load
  • Small Mustangs must rely on experience
  • Harris looks to measure up in win column
  • Packers boast new weapon at quarterback
  • Loaded Spartans have talent to dominate
  • Crusaders hope to make success a habit
  • Numbers to give Eagles breathing room
  • Gladiators trying to stay more grounded
  • Eagles likely to finally get off the ground
  • Seniors have Falcons thinking playoffs
  • Rebels pinning hopes on healthy veterans
  • Cougars must surmount rugged district
  • Healthy Marauders pose playoff threat
  • Nucleus has Tornadoes primed to rebound
  • Pirates hope confidence is the difference
  • New coach looking to stretch the field
  • Big dreams without big heads
  • You've come a long way baby!
  • The small things come first for county's newest teams
  • Hillsborough distric outlook
  • From the editor:
  • Team's character, offense are focus
  • West Preview: Could this be the season the west finally fights back?
  • Veteran leadership strength of Cougars
  • This Cowboys coach promises to stay put
  • Don't be surprised by Indians this time
  • It's now or never for the Dragons
  • Potential for title run has Lions' attention
  • One loss motivates Tigers to improve
  • Leto's new offense, season hold promise
  • Reaves ready to put Panthers in spotlight
  • Rebuilding Raiders must grow up fast
  • It's Hicks' turn to carry load for Knights
  • New-look Titans plan to pass first
  • Too many veterans not to be optimistic
  • Crusaders continue rebuilding project
  • Wildcats begin to whisper about playoffs
  • Last season's woes strengthen Eagles
  • Ravens' growth will determine success
  • Last season's stars are tough to replace
  • Bucs want early wins then trip to playoffs
  • Nine-game skid shakes team's foundation
  • Bulls out to end trend of one-win seasons
  • Depth in trenches crucial for Eagles
  • Pasco County: For the fans
  • Playoff losses big motivation for Gators
  • The word little's a big deal for Mustangs
  • If Pirates can remain healthy, watch out
  • This season's schedule bound to have more surprises
  • New coach, offense give Rams new hope
  • Juniors out to resurrect Knights' success
  • Wildcats prepare for tougher challenges
  • Bulldogs are lacking in numbers, as usual
  • 10 Games to Watch: A week-by-week county primer
  • 10 Questions: Setting the record straight for 2002 ... sort of
  • Gators begin making big waves
  • National Signing Day will be a big deal this time around
  • Bucs sport a new look called the Spread-I
  • Conference race has new meaning
  • Offense has promise, defense a concern
  • Weightman to test reloading Hudson
  • New Bears coach is all about approach
  • Hernando: For the Fans
  • On the Net
  • Castillo, Leopards ready to break into open
  • Eagles to take field with winning feeling
  • Hernando County's college players to watch
  • Eagles in for rocky start, strong finish
  • Springstead ready to push Central
  • Scheme stays same but faces change
  • Panthers standout isn't very hard to find on field
  • Pirates bent on dismissing doubters, foes
  • Panthers have tasted success, want more
  • Buoyed by experience, athleticism
  • Tigers have playoff potential if they unite
  • A whole new offensive ballgame
  • Citrus County football from A to Z

  • Rays
  • Rays, Kennedy get swept away
  • Naimoli says deal should help sport
  • Nash to get out of jail
  • Up next: Rangers

  • Bucs
  • Productive Saints QB still looking for respect
  • Lightning forces players into garage

  • From the wire

    From the state sports wire
  • Jacksonville's Spicer placed on IR after leg surgery
  • FIU-Western Kentucky game postponed because of Jeanne
  • Brown anxious to face old team for first time
  • Dolphins' desperate defense readies for Roethlisberger
  • Former Sarasota lineman sheds tough-guy image with Michigan
  • Rothstein rejoins Heat as assistant
  • No. 16 Florida has history on its side against Kentucky
  • FSU and Clemson QBs both off to slow starts