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As you might expect, gloom and doom made their presence felt around the South Florida football complex following last Thursday's loss to Pittsburgh.
"On Friday and through the whole weekend, it seemed like the end of the world," Bulls defensive end George Selvie said.
But by Monday, as the players reconvened, the mood had lightened a little bit. Sure, South Florida (5-1, 0-1 Big East) has blown its chance for an unbeaten season and a long shot BCS title run. Not everything has come to an end, however. The primary goal of winning the school's first conference championship remains alive, though more difficult to attain.
A 5-2 league record was enough to win the Big East last season, but the Bulls know they can't count on that again, especially having already lost to a contender at home.
"Pittsburgh's going to get even better after that win, and some other teams are playing well now, too," quarterback Matt Grothe said. "I think we definitely need to win out the rest of our games to win the Big East.
"Looking at our schedule, I definitely think we can beat anybody we play if we execute and keep everybody healthy."
It's that second part that makes this week so vital. South Florida played each of the first six weeks, with the Pittsburgh game coming just five days after their fifth game. That took its toll, as the Bulls had to deal with several injuries, especially on defense. This week's bye offers the opportunity to heal.
"I don't want to make any excuses, because there are no excuses," head coach Jim Leavitt said. "But we are banged up a little bit. We hope to use this week well and get healthier as a football team."
Selvie's health is one of the most important concerns. He missed the N.C. State game with an ankle injury and then tried to play through serious pain against Pittsburgh. He admitted he had trouble even jogging on and off the field.
"I thought I might hurt the team a little bit, but I might help them some," he said. "I've never been hurt my whole career, so it's been tough."
Selvie is doing only light work this week and says he expects to be 100 percent by the Oct. 18 home game against Syracuse. South Florida also hopes to get back nose tackleTerrell McClain from his ankle injury and perhaps linebacker Brouce Mompremier in a few weeks.
The Bulls also have to figure out why they seemed to come out flat against Pitt when they usually play with lots of fire at home.
"I don't think I would have prepared them any differently than I did looking back at it," Leavitt said, "but I didn't think we had the energy we certainly needed. Sometimes, that energy comes from making plays."
The Panthers were able to keep South Florida and its fans out of a comfort zone by playing physically and controlling the action with a tough running game. They were the first team to really pound the ball at the Bulls, something the team must be ready for in future games against opponents like UConn.
USF players will have two weeks to stew over the loss and then get ready for what they hope is a big second half.
"Everybody's in a bad mood, and it's going to be a long two weeks," Selvie said. "But we're going to work hard, and if we finish strong and win the rest of our games, everything will fall into place from there."