upset the highly favored, nationally ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. I expected the Bulls to give the Irish a good fight, but years of watching upstart teams appear to have the South Bend boys on the ropes, only for Notre Dame to bounce off, come back swinging, and prevail in the final seconds, clouded my hope for an upset. I wasn't surprised to see the Bulls take an early lead, but was that the Irish failed to score in the first half. Still, a 16-0 halftime lead would be easily surmountable.
When halftime turned into a two hour weather delay, I felt sure that Notre Dame would use the extra time to make the adjustments they needed to overcome their numerous first half mistakes and to circumvent the South Florida defense. Their "d" had done well so far; the Bulls' scores had come on a fumble return and three field goals. The Irish did come back, with a new quarterback, scoring a TD halfway through the third quarter. Early in the fourth, the Bulls answered with their first TD scored by the offense. ND then scored again, and tried a two point conversion, which failed despite a penalty against USF on the first attempt. So the score was 23-13 with about four minutes left on the game clock when another weather emergency was declared and the teams left the field.
Horrid visions filled my head: the Irish come back with a quick TD, get the two point conversion, succeed with an onside kick, get within field goal range, and win as the final seconds tick down. As it was, when the second storm passed, ND did get another TD, settled for the safe one extra point, then tried an onside kick, which the Bulls recovered and ran out the clock for a 23-20 win. For once, in my experience, luck was not with the Irish.
As a USF alum, I should be elated by this victory. I am glad they were able to beat yet another (they have, in past seasons, beaten Auburn, Florida State, Miami, West Virginia twice, and Louisville when they were ranked tenth in the AP poll) highly regarded team. But the argument can be made, and undoubtedly has been by some pundits, that South Florida didn't win this game so much as Notre Dame lost it. The Bulls, not even among the "others receiving votes" in the preseason AP poll, will probably be ranked somewhere between 20th and 25th in the coming week's poll. Wins over their next three opponents--Ball State, Florida A&M, and Texas-El Paso--are unlikely to improve their standing much, while a loss to any of them will drop them off the chart. Their real test begins September 29, when they begin their round of Big East Conference games at Pittsburgh. Historically, while the Bulls have had great success outside their conference, they've had great difficulty with Pitt, Connecticut, Cincinnati, and Rutgers, all of which they play in that order this year, all on the road except Cincy, which they've scheduled for Homecoming on October 22 (see Bulls schedule here).
Is this the Year of the Bull? I used to subscribe to the conventional wisdom that there would never be a Year of the Gator, and was proved wrong. I like being wrong about these things.
Update: My prediction about South Florida's AP poll ranking was on the money. They're number 22 this week. What I didn't expect was for Notre Dame to fall out of the top 25.