Martin Fennelly Columns
Holtz, Bulls face must-win against UConn
TAMPA - South Florida hosts Connecticut in football tonight. Eat your heart out, Alabama-LSU. Don't look now (and I'm sure most of you won't), but this is the biggest game in Skip Holtz's Tampa football life: 3-5 UConn against 2-6 USF; 0-3 in the Big East against 0-4. Loser leaves the conference. UConn vs. U Got To Be Kidding Us. It's that bad at USF, a six-game losing streak after another stupendous fold, a big, blown halftime lead against Syracuse, another failed, bed-wetting defensive stand in the final seconds, another abomination, Holtz and his staff with no answers, again.How do you rush for 369 yards and lose? Syracuse scored 34 second-half points against USF. Last season, Syracuse scored only 32 points in the second half against USF – in basketball. I'm amazed that first-year defensive coordinator Chris Cosh's first year didn't end that night. Someone's head needs to roll. Or maybe they'll all roll together. Yes, we're down to that conversation. You can't set foot on campus without pondering two questions: What does Skip Holtz need to do to keep his job? What does he need to do to lose it? Let's tackle the second question first: Lose these last four games and it will be barely possible for Holtz to stay employed here with a 10-game losing streak to end his third season. It's the Raheem Rule. Granted, Holtz's players haven't quit, a Bucs staple as Raheem Morris' third and final season as Bucs head coach unwound. "They're not giving up," Holtz said Tuesday. "They're not giving in. They're not waving the white flag." When not giving up is your fire wall, it's a tough situation. As for keeping his job, Holtz needs a win today, desperately. You don't go out and lose to Connecticut, even in front of very few witnesses. (I can't wait to see this crowd, since only 23,833 bothered coming to Raymond James for Syracuse and USF homecoming). Here's what you do if you're Skip Holtz: You beat UConn and then beat someone else, Miami, Cincinnati or Pitt. You can survive at 4-8. Or, at the very least, you beat UConn, then don't lose the other three games like you've been losing them. You don't give up your ghost at the end. Even that would stand, albeit it one leg, as improvement. Then your athletic director crawls out from under his desk, stops issuing statements by e-mail and says you're his man, even at 3-9, that three years is not enough time (though 8-5 to 5-7 to this shows a definite pattern) and that these aren't Holtz's juniors and seniors. In other words, USF athletic director Doug Woolard, no hanging judge by any stretch, needs to man up and attach his future to Holtz's. That's the only thing that will work at 3-9 – saying you believe Skip Holtz was and is your guy and you believe it so much you'll go down with the ship, you and your own hefty salary, if Holtz sinks. Courage, Douglas – it's game time. Of course, the Bulls could get hot. Why, they nearly beat Louisville before they didn't. In other news, USF just lost leading rusher Lindsey Lamar for the season and might play today without leading receiver Andre Davis. Sigh. So, it's on to USF and Connecticut, the game of games. Try not to laugh too hard. "Somebody has to win," USF senior running back Demetris Murray said. "Hopefully, it's us." Imagine going into an off week with a loss to UConn. Imagine wallowing in that. "It's frustrating and it's hard and it probably makes everybody edgy, short and upset," Holtz said. "… I think it's really important that we find a way to win a game this weekend, especially going into the open date, at least so everybody can take a breath." This season, and coach, are running out of air, fast.