Hello, Big Four.
OK, that may be overstating it a bit, but South Florida at least belongs in the discussion with the state's big boys now. The Bulls won at Florida State last year, and on Saturday they registered another program milestone by winning at Miami, 23-20 in overtime.
It's the first signature win of the Skip Holtz era, and that sure will help him on the recruiting trail this winter. The way that South Florida got it done was even more amazing than the result.
They played the entire second half with true freshman quarterback Bobby Eveld, who walked on to the program because the team was so desperate for depth at the position. Stepping in for B.J. Daniels, who was limited with a quad injury, Eveld completed 8 of 15 passes for 120 yards. He calmly led a scoring drive with two minutes left to tie it up in regulation, delivering two clutch throws to Dontavia Bogan. He also hit Joel Miller at the Miami 1 in overtime before Demetris Murray leaped over the plane for the victory.
And how about Miller? A former walk-on himself, he was the key figure in the Jim Leavitt abuse allegations that changed the course of this program. He led the team with four catches for 59 yards, including a 15-yarder on the drive that tied the game.
There will be questions all week now whether Eveld should start over the erratic Daniels in the finale against UConn next week. It doesn't just have implications for South Florida; the Big East's BCS bid will be at stake for the Huskies. Jarrett Brown filled in for Pat White in 2006 to lead West Virginia past Rutgers in the finale and send Louisville to the BCS. Might history be repeating, this time with a fill-in helping West Virginia get the prize?
But that's a story for another day. The South Florida defense played a terrific game. It wilted a bit once Jacory Harris came on in the second half, but Jerrell Young saved the game with an interception with five seconds left deep in Bulls territory. Miami fans have seen that story over and over again with the mistake-prone Harris. The defense also held the Hurricanes without a first down in the first overtime possession, setting up the win.
South Florida simply wanted this game more. Granted, this was a Miami team that didn't have much to play for, with a head coach on the hot seat and a stadium that was three-quarters empty. Still, the Bulls got it done and registered arguably the biggest nonconference victory of any Big East team this year (not that there's much competition; only West Virginia's win over Maryland is even in the conversation).
More importantly, it's another big milestone for this young program and for Holtz. The Big Three had better watch out for this upstart.