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 ... This week he remembers the 2007 football season in "The Wild Ride of 2007".
The Wild Ride of 2007
Can it really be four years ago? Four years since the Bulls were the No. 2 team in the nation? Four years since we were the talk of the college football world? Four years since we laughingly referred to ourselves as the potential “skunks in the BCS garden?”
Yes, it’s been that long, and a lot has happened since then. Maybe it’s too soon to look back. But I tend to think that whole season and that whole situation happened so fast, and was so intense, that we might not have enjoyed it enough; might not have appreciated it enough.
We might not have stood back in wonder enough.
But we really were No. 2 in the nation. You can look it up. There really were dozens of autograph collectors hanging out by the dumpsters next to the Athletic building. I watched them from my office window as they waited for Matt Grothe, George Selvie and others hoping to turn a quick profit from the new darlings of college football. We really did beat Auburn and then we really did beat West Virginia. And, oh how we really beat UCF.
National media people loved us.
And hated us.
Fans around the country who didn’t know much about USF began to root for us.
And take shots at us.
We were a 10-year-old program from the BIG EAST Conference that was threatening to go undefeated and go to a national title game. For some, we were everything that was wrong with college football. For some, we were everything that was right with it.
“It all happened pretty fast,” recalls wide receiver A.J. Love, who as a sixth year senior is the only remaining active player that saw the field in 2007. “Everybody was excited. Everybody just couldn’t wait until the next game.”
It started quietly, with a 28-13 win over Elon (photos). Elon had crushed us 41-7 a decade earlier, but in 2007, a 15-point USF win was generally described as a disappointment. It was only 7-3 Bulls at half.
We were 1-0, but the prevailing opinions told us an “L” was coming next week. No. 13 Auburn, after all, and on the road.
You may have heard what happened that day (photos), so let’s move on and just say the 2-0 Bulls went back to Tampa as the nation’s No. 23 team to play North Carolina after a bye week. West Virginia would follow. We actually heard the words “trap game” as the Bulls prepared to face the Tar Heels.
That might have been the first time I realized the 2007 season might be a bit unusual. In some ways the memory of people asking if a USF-North Carolina game was a trap game for us resonates as much with me as the Auburn win did.
Winds of change, straight ahead.
The Bulls demolished North Carolina 37-10 (photos), setting up Friday night, Sept. 28, 2007: No. 5 West Virginia against No. 18 USF.
Raymond James Stadium was sold out. Bulls 21, Mountaineers 13. Matt Grothe. Carlton Mitchell. Ben Moffitt. Like Auburn, you don’t need me to tell the story, but what a night. (photos) The post game radio show went past midnight, and only on the drive home did I realize that I had turned 50 years old, on the air, from the booth at Raymond James Stadium. That night, there wasn’t a better place on earth to be.
October 6. FAU. What a change in atmosphere. 20,000 people in rundown Lockhart Stadium. A young, hungry and well coached Florida Atlantic team looking to make a statement.
Got your trap game right here, pal.
We survived 35-23. 5-0. No. 5 in the nation. (photos)
October 13. Back at Raymond James. UCF. 12-7 Bulls after one quarter. 64-12 Bulls when it was over. (photos)Was it as satisfying as Auburn or West Virginia? Not to me.
OK, it did feel pretty good though, didn’t it?
6-0 and No. 2 in the nation.
“It was surreal,” recalls Love. “But it wasn’t to the point where we were in disbelief. Just having the whole student body and having the whole Tampa Bay area behind us was a great feeling.”
Surreal was a pretty apt description, though. By this time, the coaching staff couldn’t keep up with the interview requests, so many were farmed out to me. I was on radio shows almost every day (believe me there are more “Bob and Bob in the morning” shows around the country than you can possibly imagine.) I recall one interview where a now-nationally-known member of the media introduced me as the play-by-play broadcaster of the USF Bulldogs.
But it was fun. We were news. People argued that we should be No. 1 in the rankings, not No. 2.
Should I stop here?
It went south in Jersey. 30-27 against Rutgers (photos). Then it was Connecticut, and Cincinnati. (photos)
Somehow, we were 6-3 and unranked. Just that fast. Bob and Bob stopped calling.
It’s important to remember that the Bulls found their feet eventually. The next three games were wins over Syracuse, Louisville (photos) and Pittsburgh. The Bulls averaged 48 points per game in that stretch and finished 9-3 before falling in the Sun Bowl to Oregon. (photos)
It was such a big year we did the highlights twice. My version ran during the 2007 Sun Bowl broadcast:
A few months later, Jim Lighthall's version helped us kick off the 2008 season:
What a ride. Critics may say it was a flash in the pan. But I would remind them that the Bulls reached the Top 25 again in 2008. And that since the Sun Bowl, the Bulls have played in and won a bowl game in each and every succeeding year.
It happened so fast, and it ended so fast too. But it did happen. And there is absolutely no reason why it can’t happen again.
I’ll let you know when the dumpster guys are back.