The Bulls wrap up their 2012 season with a predictably ugly loss, and the fans turn up the volume on USF's embattled coach.
The first time USF played Pittsburgh, in 2001, it was the Bulls' second game in FBS, and the questions on everyone's mind were, "Can USF compete at this level? Are they ready to play against a decent BCS-conference team? Do they have a chance to win?" The answer to all three of those questions was yes.
The tenth (and last?) time USF played Pittsburgh, in 2012, it was the Bulls' 145th game in FBS, and the questions on everyone's mind are, "Can USF compete at this level? Are they ready to play against a decent major-conference team? Do they have a chance to win?" The answer to all three of those questions, with the team and the coaching staff we saw ending the season last night, is no.
The few fans who did bother to show up to last night's game weren't having any of it. Over the years, there's been precious little booing at USF home games that didn't have to do with referees. But this game, this season, this 4-16 stretch of football that Skip Holtz has presided over... this was the breaking point. People showed up with paper bags on their heads asking for people to be fired. Fans near the broadcast booth could be heard yelling at the coaches as the game predictably went sour.
Then Holtz sent the field-goal unit out on 4th and goal with the Bulls trailing 27-0 in the fourth quarter.
Honesty, at that moment USF should have felt lucky that they aren't a tradition-laden program that sells out every game no matter what, because it might have been Thunderdome time. The people who were there went berserk. There was about as loud of booing as you can get out of a crowd of 18,000 people. ESPN2 showed three different reaction shots of fans screaming obscenities and booing and putting their arms out in complete disbelief. Maikon Bonani hit a 26-yarder to cut the lead to 27-3.
Not long after, a few people on Twitter countered that, hey, it's Bonani's last game, he doesn't kick off, and this was a way to get him in the game on senior night. OK, but that's also three weeks in a row where Skip has called for a pointless field goal or extra point in the fourth quarter of a game where the Bulls are getting blown out. Managing losses is one of the weakest things you can do during a game. Add that to all of his clock-management snafus, his indecision in plus territory, not knowing when to kick an extra point and when to go for two... it adds up to a terrible game day coach who shows signs of getting worse, not better. That's something shuffling assistants and issuing ultimatums won't fix. When was the last time you saw a bad game manager get better at it over time?
After that, USF kicked off and never even got the ball back. The Panthers bled the entire 9:41 remaining on the clock with a long, sustained drive, and then took a knee inside the 5-yard line rather than punching in another touchdown. As the clock ran out, the very small group of fans who were left at the game headed over to the USF tunnel to send Holtz (leaving the field quickly) off with another round of loud, angry boos. And it was completely fair. Skip Holtz is our Steve Kragthorpe, our Frank Spaziani, our Ron Prince -- a guy who took a football program that was in fairly good shape and drove it straight into a ditch, and if we're lucky it will only take a few years to get out of it.
Really, all of the booing in the fourth quarter was richly deserved, except for one time. When Matt Floyd came back in the game on the play before Bonani's field goal, there was a lot of booing. That was completely embarrassing for two reasons:
1. If we're being honest, Floyd shouldn't be out on the field at this point. As Bulls247 pointed out during the game, Floyd played in a wing-T offense in high school and hardly ever threw the ball. He has some talent, but he needs more work before you can hand him the keys to a modern college passing game. Looking back, we all may have expected too much of him as a redshirt freshman. And once there was game film of him to study, it was only natural that he would really begin struggling.
2. Floyd was out of the game because of a cheap, late hit by Devin Cook where he was clobbered after throwing a pass and driven to the ground. While Floyd was being checked out on the sidelines, Evan Landi came in and ran a few plays under center. With Landi in the game, USF moved the ball inside the 10-yard line. Of course, they weren't going to leave their starting tight end and emergency quarterback in the game if they didn't have to, so when Floyd was cleared to go back in, he did. And he got booed. Look, I know everyone's mad and lashing out, but that was uncalled for. Bad form, USF fans.
So what happens next? People are going to get fired, there's no question about that. But how many? We'll have to wait and see. I have no idea what exactly will go down (if you want to read any kind of significance into Doug Woolard showing up to the press conference, be my guest -- I don't know what it means), but it shouldn't be too long until we find out what the consequences of this disastrous 3-9 season will be.