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‘Southern Florida’ focused on Big East

Posted Sep 5, 2011 by Adam Adkins

Updated Sep 5, 2011 at 12:49 AM

USF was about 10 seconds into celebrating one of the biggest victories in program history Saturday night when the Notre Dame Stadium announcer told what was left of a sold-out crowd of 80,795 what had just happened.

“Final score: the University of Southern Florida 23, Notre Dame 20.”

Yep, that’s how the Bulls were referenced following their season-opening win over the 16th-ranked Fighting Irish in their first trip to South Bend, Ind. But hey, at least that wasn’t as bad as Notre Dame alum Joe Theismann saying last week the Irish certainly weren’t looking past UCF, right?

In fairness, the blunder did little to take away from the accomplishment on the field, which was the program’s first win over an Associated Press-ranked opponent under coach Skip Holtz and the first over a ranked foe since West Virginia in October 2009. And when the Top 25 polls are released Tuesday, it’s possible the Bulls will have their first national ranking of the Holtz era.

As big as Saturday’s road victory was for the Bulls, though, both players and Holtz seemed to keep things in perspective after the game when talking about the grand picture.

“It’s a big step. Notre Dame, with their history and all,” senior safety Jerrell Young. “But even if we would have won or lost this game, it had nothing to do with our Big East championship goal.”

“We’ve had some big wins, but I think as I told the team last week, I’m much more concerned with how we handle this game, whether we win or lose, than I am what happens to it,” Holtz said. “What we have not done is we have not been able to line up and play consistently through the course of a year and win a Big East championship, and that’s the No. 1 goal we have as a football team right now and with what we’re trying to do.”

The Bulls have three more nonconference games before getting started in league play with a nationally-televised game Sept. 29 at Pittsburgh. Up first is Ball State in Saturday’s home opener at Raymond James Stadium.

The Cardinals struggled to a 2-10 record in 2010 but earned a big win Saturday in new coach Pete Lembo’s debut, beating Indiana, 27-20, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The Bulls know Saturday was just the first step in a long season. While the matchup with the Irish has no bearing on the Big East race, getting a win against a tradition-rich program like Notre Dame — and on its home field, no less — certainly can pay dividends going forward.

“To have the momentum is something special,” said junior cornerback Kayvon Webster.

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