Before I start this article, I would like to thank Jim Louk USF Bulls announcer and Bulls Unlimited for the idea of this story.
One of the best years for the University of South Florida Bulls football team was 2002. The Bulls were independent and had not joined Conference USA or American Athletic Conference. It was hard for independent teams to get into bowl games. This was, of course, long before the college football playoffS. The USF Bulls finished the 2001 season with an 8-3 record. They won their final six games, all at home.
As they started the 2002 season, they won their first two again at home and got eight straight wins at Raymond James Stadium. This was the start of a great season for the Bulls. The next two games of that 2002 season were on the road against Arkansas and Oklahoma. The Razorbacks slaughtered the Bulls 42-3. Against the Sooners the following week it would be a little be better, but they would lose 31-14. What many didn’t know is that this would be the start of the Bulls getting better.
The rest of the season would be all wins. The Bulls would win 7 straight. The next big win would be, at the time, against the Southern Miss Eagles. The Eagles would have a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. They lined up for a winning field goal and got the kick away only for it to go wide right. The Bulls would beat the best of Conference USA. The last game of that season had them facing the Houston Cougars on the road. The Bulls would defeat the Cougars and finish the season 9-2. Now they figured they would get a bowl bid with nine wins.
They would get no bowl bid. The Bulls had an outside chance of going to the Hawaii Bowl. All they needed to do was have the Eastern Carolina Pirates defeat the Cincinnati Bearcats. Many of the top-notch people and players for the Bulls gathered to watch the game. The Bearcats would go on to win the game and the Bulls hearts had been broken. This meant the Bulls would not go to a bowl game. So, the question is how did the Bulls miss out on a bowl game? The answer is because they were an independent team. This was one of the better USF Bulls teams in the program’s history.
What are your thoughts on the 2002 USF Bulls? Leave a comment below.
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