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Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
USF Bulls

Bulls Beat: Football still hoping for bowl berth

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TAMPA — Everyone can do the math.

To become bowl eligible, the University of South Florida Bulls (2-6, 2-2 American Athletic Conference) must sweep their four remaining games. The first step is Saturday night’s home meeting with the Memphis Tigers (2-6, 0-4) at Raymond James Stadium.

USF follows with a Nov. 23 home game against SMU, featuring QB Garrett Gilbert, who leads the nation in total offense at 409.4 yards. Then comes a Black Friday trip to UCF, which is in control of the school’s first BCS bowl bid. The finale is Dec. 7 at Rutgers, where USF hasn’t won since 2005.

It’s unlikely for USF to sweep through four games, prompting the program’s first bowl trip since 2010.

Don’t tell that to the Bulls, though.

“It’s most definitely a realistic expectation,’’ Bulls junior WR Andre Davis said. “We can beat every team on our schedule. We can’t go in looking ahead. We’ve got to put the utmost effort into this one game.’’

USF’s confidence was rejuvenated with the emergence of freshman QB Mike White in a 35-23 loss at Houston on Halloween night. The Bulls, who scored just six offensive touchdowns in their first seven games, finally demonstrated an effective passing game.

“The first part of the season, we were 0-4,’’ Davis said. “The second part we were 2-2. Coach (Willie) Taggart says this is a new season. We can go 4-0 in these last four games, which is what we need to do. It’s most definitely a new season.’’

For old-school fans, going 6-6 hardly seems worthy of a postseason trip, although the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg could work nicely. Equally important are the additional practices afforded to bowl teams, an important factor for Taggart’s developing program.

“All our guys understand (what is needed),’’ Taggart said. “You’ve got to win the rest of the four and that’s not going to happen unless you focus one game at a time. We’re all about Memphis. We’re not worried about anything after that. It’s Memphis, Memphis, Memphis and more Memphis. We’ve got to get back in the win column.’’

It’s about finishing strong. It’s about playing for the seniors. Maybe it will become about playing for a bowl. But there is no margin for error. One more trap door and all postseason possibilities are erased.

USF says it won’t look ahead. And it’s too painful to look back. The early season losses against McNeese State and Florida Atlantic continue to inflict some pain.

Men’s soccer

Hoping to capitalize on its season-long defensive prowess, George Keifer’s No. 5-seeded men’s soccer team (7-3-8) faces No. 8 Rutgers (7-10-2) in the AAC tournament semifinals on Friday at Frisco, Texas. Rutgers upset top-seeded Louisville 1-0. During the regular season, USF and Rutgers played to a scoreless draw.

The USF-Rutgers winner will face the Connecticut-UCF winner in Sunday’s championship match with an automatic NCAA tournament berth at stake.

The Bulls won at Temple 1-0 in the AAC quarterfinals, marking the 15th time in 18 games this season USF has held an opponent to one goal or less.

Bulls Bits

Men’s basketball (2-0) heads to Bowling Green on Friday night. Coach Stan Heath is seeking his 200th career victory. … Women’s soccer had three players — Christiane Endler, Cristin Granados and Demi Stokes — make the All-AAC second team, while Leticia Skeete made the all-rookie team. The Bulls (10-4-5) ended their season with an ACC tournament semifinal loss at UCF in penalty kicks. …Volleyball (15-11, 9-3 and second in AAC) has won seven of its past eight matches. Senior Andrea Rodriguez Gomes (10 kills, 11 blocks against Rutgers) was named AAC player of the week. The Bulls host Cincinnati on Friday night and Louisville on Sunday afternoon. …Seth Greenberg, USF men’s basketball coach from 1996-2003, was inducted into the Long Beach State Athletics Hall of Fame on Tuesday night. Greenberg, now an ESPN analyst, was 105-70 in six seasons with the 49ers.

jjohnston@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7353

Twitter: @JJohnstonTBO

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