Bulls Gore Pirates
South Florida jumped to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter and rode its defense the rest of the way to a 24-7 win over East Carolina in the inaugural PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Bulls clearly had the better ingredients in this game. Every time the Pirates sniffed the red zone, USF timely sacked the quarterback or created a turnover. A missed field goal and a failed fourth down pass doomed other opportunities.
Neither team scored in the second half as South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe left the game with a shin bruise, and the East Carolina offense was never allowed to get in rhythm. The Bulls had six sacks and two fumble recoveries while seemingly living in the ECU backfield.
It was USF's first-ever bowl win after losing 14-0 to N.C. State in their only other opportunity at last year's Meineke Car Care Bowl. The Bulls finished the season with a 9-4 record, tying them with the 2002 team that went 9-2 for most wins in a season. USF has only had a football program for 10 years and moved up to 1-A in 2001. They have a career record of 43-26 at the 1-A level.
East Carolina was making its first bowl appearance since the 2001 GMAC Bowl where it blew a 38-8 halftime lead to lose 64-61 to Marshall in double-overtime in one of the wildest bowl games in history.
The Pirates were just 2-9 in 2004, the year before Skip Holtz' arrival as head coach. Under his tutelage, they improved to 5-6 last season and finished the 2006 campaign at 7-6.