Zebold: Holtz Leaves the Past in the Past

September 27, 2011
J. Meric

USF Senior Writer

TAMPA - Skip Holtz is not a historian.

USF's head football coach doesn't spend time looking through the Bulls' scrolls to see how they've done historically against other programs. Proof came Monday during his weekly press conference when he was asked about USF's past struggles against Pittsburgh, the Bulls' opponent Thursday night.

"How many times have we lost to Pitt in a row?" he asked reporters.

One answered, "three."

"I know that now," Holtz responded with a smile.

Holtz was dead-on when he brought up USF's standing against Pitt this season.

"The 2011 football team has not played the Pitt team. Whether we're 0-92 is irrelevant," he said.

Holtz 1, reporters 0.

Another member of the media asked about USF's record on Thursday nights.

"How many have we lost on Thursdays?" asked Holtz, who was told, "six."

Holtz went 2-0 with his next reply.

"It's Thursday night and this team has not played on Thursday night yet. What's happened in the past is irrelevant," he said. "Where we're going in the future is irrelevant. It's going to be what goes on in between the lines. What is our focus like and how do we play this game on Thursday night?"

Holtz's ability to keep the Bulls in the present is a big reason why they've gone 4-0 and climbed all the way up to No. 14 in the USA Today/Coaches poll.

They were mentally tough enough to win at Notre Dame and focused enough to be successful in the three should-win games after that. The team has gone through some adversity in the process with the passing of Lee Roy Selmon, one of the most beloved Bulls in the history of USF athletics.

The team attended Selmon's memorial service the day before it played Ball State on Sept. 10. Holtz was concerned the Bulls might not be sharp enough mentally heading into the game and they put him at ease by rolling to a 37-7 victory at home.

Now USF takes to the road for the first time since Notre Dame and has some fairly recent history to serve as confidence.

The Bulls went 4-2 away from Raymond James Stadium last season, Holtz's first with the program, including first-ever wins at Cincinnati, Louisville and Miami.

One reporter asked Holtz why his team has been so successful playing in other teams' homes.

"You have to play great defense and try to keep the crowd out of it, and you have to turn and play together," Holtz said.

The last part of his statement has summed up USF's 2011 season to this point.

Veteran players have said this group is tighter than any other they've been a part of with the program. For the second straight year, USF had the luxury of going to Vero Beach for training camp, which has allowed the team to bond for almost two weeks together as one unit.

Very few outsiders visit Dodgertown for long periods of time, while there is lots of time for players on both sides of the ball to gel.

"That pays you dividends when you go on the road," Holtz said.

Thursday night's game will be televised nationally on ESPN and the Bulls certainly will be walking into a hostile Pitt crowd at Heinz Field. Ask Holtz about all of that and he'll tell you those elements don't factor into USF's focus for the BIG EAST opener.

"You are playing for each other," he said. "You're not playing for the crowd and all the circus things that are going on outside the lines."

Win or lose, it's certain Holtz's Bulls will do it together as they live in the now. Past records, whether Holtz knows them or not, mean nothing at this point.

"I don't dwell on some of those things because I don't think they have anything to do with the outcome of this game," as he put it perfectly Monday afternoon.

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