Before joining the Carolina Panthers, Jonathan Stewart ran up one of the biggest stat lines ever against USF In one of their ill-fated trips out West for a football game.
My adopted hometown of Fort Worth calls itself "Where The West Begins," but for USF football, it's where the winning has ended. The Bulls have never won a game west of here before, and they haven't even really come close. They will look to break that skid in Reno on Saturday, but here's a look back at those three ugly earlier trips out West:
- September 4, 1999: San Diego State 41, USF 12. The Bulls' first-ever game against a Division I-A (now FBS) opponent and their first game without Chad Barnhardt went about how you would have expected. The Aztecs controlled the game, taking a 24-3 halftime lead and extending it to 38-6 early in the fourth quarter before calling off the dogs. Larry Ned ran for 145 yards on just 14 carries, scoring twice.
This game is maybe best remembered now as the emergence of Miami transfer Dyral McMillan, who became USF's first 1000-yard rusher in the 1999 season. And of course, it was the first appearance of quarterback Marquel Blackwell, who went 6-for-9 for 90 yards and a touchdown. The next week, when starter Glen Gauntt struggled badly in a monsoon against Southwest Texas State (now just Texas State), Blackwell came on in relief, led USF to a win, and never came out of the lineup again.
- October 6, 2001: Utah 52, USF 21. The Bulls paid a visit to Salt Lake City in their first year as a member of FBS and got annihilated by the bigger, stronger Utes. Utah rushed for 245 yards and ran up 508 total yards in the game. In building a 38-0 lead early in the third quarter, the Utes' drive chart looked like this: touchdown, interception, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, punt, touchdown, touchdown.
The Bulls couldn't run the ball against the Utah defense, totaling just 67 yards. Blackwell had a decent game, throwing for 281 yards and two touchdowns after the game was out of reach. Ronnie Banks also threw a touchdown pass to close out the scoring. Kawika Mitchell made 12 tackles, while Huey Whittaker and Hugh Smith each went over 100 yards receiving.
It was the most points the Bulls ever allowed in a game until...
- December 31, 2007: Oregon 56, USF 21. Yes, the Sun Bowl from hell. This game was actually competitive for a lot longer than most people remember. After the Ducks caught the Bulls napping on their first touchdown and scored a two-point conversion, USF got their bearings and tied the game at 11 after a patented Matt Grothe "run around and find a guy open in the end zone" throw to Taurus Johnson. Jonathan Stewart broke a 71-yard run late in the second quarter, but Delbert Alvarado answered with a field goal on the final play, cutting Oregon's halftime lead to 18-14.
But four Oregon touchdowns in a span of six minutes and 12 seconds blew the game open. Justin Roper threw two touchdown passes, Grothe threw a pick-six, and Stewart ran for another score to make the count 46-14, leading the crowd to start amusing themselves by tossing the extra point balls around the stadium, arguing with each other in Spanish, and fighting each other.
Stewart ran for 253 yards, only 10 yards less than DeAngelo Williams' record by a USF opponent, and Oregon rolled up 533 yards of total offense. The Bulls committed five second-half turnovers, and Grant Gregory's pick-six with three minutes left broke the school record for points allowed in a game. Later, Ma got dysentery and one of the oxen died.