TO BATTLE, OR NOT TO BATTLE

by Peter Pupello

A rather anti-climactic series on the field in years past, the continuing war of words off the field fell nowhere short of Ohio State and Michigan.

The disagreement between both schools’ coaches, players and fans has less to do with wins or losses and more to do with continuing or ending the series.

“One side gets it, but as far as the other side goes, I don’t know what the problem is,” UCF head coach George O’Leary told the Tampa Tribune regarding why USF won’t continue the rivalry

Here’s some food for thought: As USF continues to build a reputation and climb the college football ranks, the Bulls, who play in a competitive BCS conference, have moved on to bigger and better things.

The Bulls want to star in one of five BCS bowl games in January, and they have to play tougher teams to get there. Not to mention, the risk of losing to UCF is far too great for the Bulls: a loss to the Knights would cause a plummet in the polls.

Saturday’s thriller was too close for comfort. The Bull’s sealed their perfect record against the Knights and ended any UCF hope of breaking it (for now), but for USF fans, it was fun while it lasted.

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The Bulls End the Series With A Close Call

In the final matchup between the cross-state rivals, USF capped its perfect 4-0 record against UCF Saturday night with a 31-24 win in overtime.

Matt Grothe found Cedric Hill in the end zone twice, scoring back-to-back touchdowns with three minutes to play. The Bulls led most of the game, but Grothe’s next pass was intercepted, leading to a monumental Knights comeback.

According to a quote from the St. Petersburg Times, coach Jim Leavitt said, “We made a lot of mistakes, and we didn’t use our judgment with three minutes to go in the game. We had the game under control, but we have to make better decisions.”

First, UCF quarterback Michael Greco hit tight end Corey Rabazinski from 15 yards out to pull within one score, and less than a minute later Greco connected with wide receiver Rocky Ross to tie the game.

The Bulls escaped disaster when UCF’s final play on 4th and 6th in overtime fell just inches short.

“When the defense made that stop, I was down on all four knees just praying, saying thank God we won the game,” wide receiver Taurus Johnson told the St. Petersburg Times.

14 USF seniors earned lifelong bragging rights in the win, while it rendered UCF 0-18 against ranked opponents.