TAMPA, Fla. --
Oh, Thursday's 26-21 win at No. 10 South Florida (
"In these situations, nobody's more disappointed than Dave and our team at the results of the game," Pederson told the
For those who don't speak athletic director, allow me to translate: "That was an absolute stinker, and I can't take many more of them. Dave and his staff had better pull off a couple of whopper upsets or hang around the Big East race until at least late November or he's out of here, no matter how wonderful his mustache is."
Thursday qualifies as one of those whopper upsets only because of USF's lofty ranking. Pitt certainly was the better team Thursday, and the balance of the season may prove that Pitt is superior overall. USF certainly has the talent to win every Big East game remaining on its schedule, but so do Pitt, West Virginia and Connecticut. It may only take 5-2 to win this league, and Pitt grabbed a major head-to-head tiebreaker Thursday.
Representatives of all four BCS bowls were wined and dined Wednesday by USF officials, and Thursday was supposed to be another nationally televised step toward USF's ascension to college football's upper crust. Thanks to an upcoming open date and a home date Oct. 18 with conference doormat Syracuse, the Bulls should have finished Thursday in prime position. Heavyweight matchups in the next two weeks undoubtedly would have knocked teams from the top 10 and allowed 11-year-old USF to climb into the top five for the second consecutive season.
"We just made a lot of mistakes," USF coach
"It's a great win, but we're going to play a couple of games clean," Wannstedt said. "When that happens, we can improve. We've got a lot of room to get better."
The Panthers certainly didn't play a clean one Thursday. They fell behind 7-0 in the first quarter after USF's
Fortunately for the Panthers, tailback
In fact, one vintage Grothe play in the fourth quarter seemed to seal the Panthers' fate. After USF gained 64 yards on eight consecutive rushing plays, Grothe took a shotgun snap and bolted left. He slammed on the brakes just short of the line of scrimmage, set his feet and lofted a perfect fade into the hands of
If the Bulls could make one stop and a first down, the new clock rules would have allowed them to bleed away any chance Pitt had. But
Still, the Panthers needed to stop the Bulls' offense, which had humbled them at the line of scrimmage a possession earlier after adjusting blocking schemes on the fly. The Panthers' defense made its own adjustments during that 74-second march.
"It was like a chess match," McKillop said. Pitt let USF take a pawn by allowing a 6-yard pass on first down. The Panthers took a knight when they stopped tailback
"There was a lot of opportunity for that thing to flip the other way," a proud Wannstedt would say later. "I really can't explain the character and the heart of these guys. We just kept coming back and coming back."
Now, after three comebacks in a row, the Panthers can enjoy a week off. Wannstedt can visit his grandson. McCoy can rest his weary muscles. McKillop can study Fischer vs. Kasparov to try and pick up tips for Pitt's Oct. 18 visit to Navy. When they reconvene, they'll do so not as the team that laid an egg against Bowling Green but as the one that controls its destiny in the Big East.