I decided to write this because with all the gloom and doom that is going on around USF Football Circles, I happened to see a silver lining in what is to be known as "The Black Abyss Game"
I have always considered myself a middle of the road guy. (I am Buddhist, that's kinda how we roll). And by half time of this past game, I was anything but. (cause I am human, that is how we roll). I couldn't believe my eyes. As if last year couldn't have gotten any worse, we have Saturdays game.
So before I get to what I liked about the game, lets focus on something that drives every man, something more important than strength, something more important that skill, more important than practice reps. I am talking about Mentality. (you could have all the skill and strength in the world and still not have a chance of winning, See NFL's Cowboys for further explanation)
So now that we have made it onto Mentality. Lets Flashback to last year and more specifically Skippy's mentality. Skippy gave our players confidence. Which is awesome! if actually founded on something. Problem was, it was founded on nothing. Skippy's mentality was we deserved to win every game because we were USF and we were awesome!. A problem occurs when a team actually had the strength to punch us in the mouth (which happened a lot last year). Instead of absorbing the blow, clearing the mind and firing back even harder, (think any heavyweight boxing fight). We acted like a bunch of pansies, whining that "the other team hit us" followed quickly by "the Audacity!, the are not allowed to do that to us!!!"
We won all of our games (3) with that mentality (where we didn't get punched back (save Nevada, where Skippy clocked out but BJ Daniels did not)) and lost the rest with that mentality. In fact the only person that didn't have that thought process was BJ. Once he got injured, there was not one leader on this team that knew how to be in a heavy weight fight. Skippy didn't help at all by kicking FGs, (he did this because he lives by his mentality (as we all do)). The other team would hit us, there we would be, in the ring, competing..... instead of hitting back, we sat and watched as the other team just kept hitting us.
Fast forward 5 months after Skippy is shown the exile door. Taggert standing on the sidelines. Pregame he stressed the importance of seeing how we handle being punched in the face, He knew McNeese throws a couple good punches. After the first play of the game, everyone is on the Bus. Taggert smiles but there is something on his face. I saw it.
We threw the first punch and everyone besides Taggert is thinking that was a knockout blow. Taggert was the only one watching McNeese get up. He knew they would be able to punch back and they did. 33 Points to 7 by half time. I had mostly jumped off the Bus. The only thing that kept one foot on the bus was the half time interview. Taggert was livid. Absolutely Livid. I was scared, I did not want to be in that locker room. He gave Floyd the confidence, (full confidence mind you) and this is how Floyd dare to repay him. I felt the wrath that would come. Even if most of the team had gone completely to Skippy's Mentality by the half there was still someone looking to fight back. It was Taggert.
Taggert did the one thing that let me know he was for real. The start of the 3rd Quarter, Floyd trots out onto the field. My initial response was "whooooooaaaaa" Cause I knew what was going on. Either Taggert had completely lost his mind, OR this he was giving Floyd one last chance at redemption. Taggert had to be absolutely sure. One interception later, Floyd was yanked from the ring.
That will be the last time Floyd starts for us (barring injury of course). Eveld then comes in and lights the field. Its too late, McNeese has already won by out hitting us. But very much unlike Skippy, Taggert didn't succeed the fight and step out of the ring before the match was over. Instead, he sat in the ring throwing punches until the last bell rung. I liked that, in fact, I loved it. No 3 points, going for the TD every time. He was teaching our players what it takes to overcome adversity, what it takes to clear the mind and get back into the fight....
What it takes to Win.
I loved it, and up until 8 min to go in the 4th, however unlikely, I believed there was a chance to win. I wasn't alone... Don't believe me, check the game thread. It went from posts talking about absolute disgust to post talking about how we only needed 4 TDs to win. Hope was there, however wrapped in sarcasm it was written.
Taggerts post game press conference was a thing of beauty. He knows he has to undo 3 years of Skippy grooming players with "we are awesome!" mentality. He knows he has glaring issues but he wont give up. Taggert knows how to fight, he just needs the players to fight with him. You saw players jumping back on the bus near the end of the game to fight with him. They are starting to believe in him.
We have issues, such as the most glaring one - DTs, but Saturday's game showed us a couple things.
1) We have a QB, his name is Bobby Eveld. He is Taggerts man and Taggert will support him fully until.....
2) Taggert has a lot of work to do, but one thing is certain, he is the right man for the job.
3) We could loose next week, by quite possibly a lot of points. But Taggert wont give up, and neither will his players. He will find players that wont give up. Soon the heavyweight mentality needed to play this game will run rampant through our team. Next year, recruits will see that. They will want to come here. Great players want to play. They want to fight. Taggert is a fighter.
We may not win many games this year. However, our players wont give up, Taggert wont let them. One day (hopefully soon) it will come, like an apostrophe, (Capt. Hook, "like what??!!!) Like, lightning has just struck their brain (Capt Hook, "oh, you mean an epiphany") (sorry, been wanting to use that line for 10 years). Taggerts Bulls will win. Wins will come in batches and then in droves. 3-4 star recruits will line up waiting for scholarships all for the chance to win.
It all starts from nothing, an Abyss, a completely black space, with no hope. Takes someone that knows how to get out of that. Someone that has done it before. I saw hope flash in the first play of Saturdays game, only to disappear by the end of the half. Slowly, I saw it appear again, only in certain players. Those players are our leaders. We had more players believe by the end of this game than we did all of last year under Skippy.
Sit back, watch as our team learns to fight, cause the wins are coming. And yes, you might want to pick up a hobby while doing so (I personally prefer brewing beer and eating popcorn).
*please forgive all grammatical errors. I am a Math guy...