Martin Fennelly Columns
This USF football season has an awfully familiar feel
Stop us if you've seen this before: Local college football team breaks from the gate fast, pulls off a big upset, cracks the national rankings, gets a slight buzz going as it heads into conference play and … Well, they're picking up the pieces again over on Fowler Avenue, another South Florida breakout season having come and now definitely gone. Cincinnati is in town this Saturday, as if the town notices anymore.Two disastrous losses, at Pittsburgh and Connecticut, have Skip Holtz and his Bulls heading toward run-of-the-mill all over again. Gone is the afterglow of the big win at Notre Dame, gone is the Top 25, gone is all that talk about taking it to the next level in conference play. This season has that 7-5, 3-4 in conference feel to it. The Bulls have done this big start, big flop too many times in their history. That's all their history seems to be sometimes, no matter the coach, players or season. This time, it didn't matter if it was a short week before Pitt or a long week (a 16-day layoff) before UConn. USF was ready to lay an egg for any occasion. "I think the Pitt game probably was one of trying to scratch your head and look back and say 'What happened?'" Holtz said. "This is one that probably that's more looking back with anger. We've got to get it straight. We've got too many guys playing too hard, too many guys playing too well." Wonder if there will even be a Big East Conference anymore by the time this program finally gets around to winning it? You look at the rest of the schedule, including a game at Rutgers, which is 5-1 just like Cincinnati, and the big finish with Miami and West Virginia at Raymond James and you can see this thing flying right off the rails, as if it hasn't already. The Connecticut loss was sobering, maybe shattering. "We've made a huge issue of the conference," Holtz said. "That's where we need to go, that's where we want to go. Is this game big in the conference race? Yes, especially being with what we've done to this point, being 0-2, it's a very important game. "I'm glad we have an opportunity to play at home. But I'm not looking at it a crossroads, that this is a sink or swim game, and if you were to lose this game, the season's over and the last five games you're going to go through the motions and throw in the towel." Fine words, but what do they mean at this point? It's pretty simple to USF linebacker Sam Barrington. "You win out," he said. "You win it. "Every game is a must game. Unfortunately, we're 4-2, so you win every game, you win out. You win every game and anything is possible." Huh? You get the idea. It would be easy to crumble right now. "Now everybody is like the sky is falling, everything is broke, everything is down," Holtz said. "Everyone thinks we're going to splinter apart," Bulls running back Darrell Scott said. "But we're not going to do that, we're going to pull together and fight through." I think the Bulls beat Cincinnati. That's 5-2. We'll see if we can still see them when they get on the other side of trips to Rutgers and Syracuse. They do finish with three home games, Miami, Louisville and West Virginia. There's always a chance … Only this was supposed to be a season where there was supposed to be more than that. Sound familiar?