The voice of USF Athletics, Jim Louk, will routinely put down his radio headset and pick up the pen to share his perspective on the history of USF Athletics.
Louk has been broadcasting games for 27 years and is the resident historian in the Athletics Department hallways so this week he talks about The First Bowl game.
100 wins! What a “far-in-the-future” number that seemed like back in 1997 when the program began. The win over Rutgers got the Bulls to that milestone in just over 14 years of playing. Every bit as remarkable is the fact the USF is 40 games over .500 in that time.
Signature wins have been a hallmark of the program from the beginning, so narrowing the field to the 10 most influential, memorable and just plain satisfying wins isn’t easy. It creates a list subject to debate and argument, and that’s good. Imagine having so many great games to choose from in less than 15 years of football!
Some good games got left off my list. The Bulls only win over a No. 1 team, Troy State in 2000, didn’t make the cut. Neither did the first win over a top 25 team, the 2002 victory over Bowling Green (coached by Urban Meyer). Or the C-USA opening win on the road at Army.
Instead, I chose these 10 games. You may not agree with all of them, but they are all games that allow Bulls fans to brag a bit on their team.
They are listed in chronological order from the earliest to most recent.
Sept. 6, 1997 at Houlihan’s Stadium
USF 80, Kentucky Wesleyan 3
It wasn’t exactly a bold statement when Mark Robinson and I said on the air that night that 80 points by USF in a game might be a record that stands for a long time. So it has - the closest the Bulls have gotten since was 69 against Cumberland back in 1998. That opening night, 49,212 watched at the old Tampa Stadium as the Bulls got the program started with a bang.
Sept. 8, 2001 at Pittsburgh, Pa.
USF 35, Pittsburgh 26
Pittsburgh was sitting just outside the top 25 and USF was getting used to being a brand new 1-A football program when the Bulls traveled to Heinz Field. Marquel Blackwell threw 65 passes, DeAndrew Rubin caught 11 of them, and the Bulls stunned Pittsburgh in a precursor of a BIG EAST rivalry.
Oct. 12, 2002 at Raymond James Stadium
USF 16, Southern Miss 13
By this time USF was a Conference USA member, but was still on the outside looking in for football. We were able to schedule a number of C-USA teams that year, and the Bulls proved their worth by beating every C-USA team they played that season. This was a big one; Southern Miss was always near the top of the conference, and they were a Bulls basketball rival dating back to the Metro. When a Southern Miss field goal attempt sailed wide in the closing moments, the Bulls proved their worth to the new league.
Sept. 25, 2004 at Fort Worth, Texas
USF 45, TCU 44 2 OT
I loved this game. It went back and forth all night long against a very good non-conference opponent and it helped set the tone for USF’s overtime success. To this day, the Bulls remain undefeated in overtime games. This one went to double overtime and the Bulls won when TCU messed up the snap and missed an extra point. TV went dark before the final play so the dumb guys on the radio were the only ones still broadcasting when the Bulls won 45-44. After the game, USF stayed two extra days in Texas, unable to fly back to Florida because of a hurricane.
Sept. 24, 2005 at Raymond James Stadium
USF 45, Louisville 14
It’s funny, but every time the Bulls have switched conferences, someone has come up to me and said exactly the same thing, almost word for word. “Man, you guys are going to get killed in that league”. Not true for the Metro, not true for Conference USA, and beginning this night, not true for the Big East. The Bulls (and particularly Amarri Jackson) scored about every way possible in blasting Louisville in USF’s BIG EAST football debut.
Dec. 23, 2006 at Birmingham, Ala.
USF 24, East Carolina 7
The Bulls' second bowl appearance was in the inaugural Papa John’s Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham. Matt Grothe got hurt, and the often under- appreciated Pat Julmiste came in to lead the Bulls to their first bowl win. The East Carolina coach? Some guy named Holtz, who would figure prominently in the Bulls’ future.
Sept. 8, 2007 at Auburn, Ala.
USF 26, Auburn 23 OT
“Hey, Jessie’s really open!” Don’t know if Matt Grothe had time to think that, but he had time to find Jessie Hester for one of the very greatest wins in USF history, one that helped propel the Bulls to a No. 2 national ranking shortly afterward.
Sept. 28, 2007 at Raymond James Stadium
USF 21, West Virginia 13
How good was it going in September of 2007? So good that our next signature win was just 20 days later. West Virginia was No. 5 in the nation, Raymond James Stadium was sold out, and Carlton Mitchell kept both feet in bounds as he raced down the sideline with a Matt Grothe pass.
Sept. 12, 2008 at Raymond James Stadium
USF 37, Kansas 34
The magic continued in front of a national TV audience. The Bulls turned to a true freshman kicker that night, one that hadn’t even been on the two deep for much of the season. My phonetic pronunciation of MY-con boe-NAHN-ee was prominent on the scorecard in front of me when the Bulls lined up for the winning kick. The kid came up big; least we could do was learn to say his name correctly.
Sept. 26, 2009 at Tallahassee
USF 17, Florida State 7
I’m sure you can sense the common theme with many of these games. It’s just like changing conferences. “Man, you guys are going to get killed”. Grothe hurt, unknown freshman in. 90,000 fans on the road. Etc, etc, etc. Note final score, and how often that type of thing has happened in our football history.
100 wins! How many have you seen? I’ve been privileged to be at every one, something I wouldn’t have even dared to dream about back in September of 1997.
These 10 games, and a few more that didn’t make the list, have shown how this program has responded to challenges over the years. Yes, there have been some disappointments, no doubt about that. But there have been some pretty special moments too. For the fans, a football program should provide both great experiences and great memories. No one can say USF Football has failed to do that.
Now let’s get that 101st win.