“Well, we all enjoyed this one, didn’t we?” Louk, the voice of the Bulls, said in 2014. He continued:
The Bulls were No. 5 in the nation, and everything went right on this day. USF shut down the Knights’ outstanding ground game, holding Kevin Smith to 55 yards. Matt Grothe, now fully immersed in the rivalry, threw for two scores and ran for two. Backup quarterbacks threw for three touchdowns. By the fourth quarter there were USF guys making huge plays that weren’t even on my roster card. And, I do remember the great crowd, just under 66,000 strong.
There’s another reason that the “I-4 War” victory — the rivals are separated by less than 100 miles on Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando — was unforgettable.
It propelled the Bulls to No. 2 in the initial Bowl Championship Series rankings that season, the sports moment judged the greatest in USF history. It was the highest BCS ranking for a Big East team since Miami (Fla.) in 2001-03.
It was also the first BCS ranking ever in a season of firsts for the Bulls, prompting the school’s website to consider title implications: “If the Bulls hold ground, they would be heading to the Superdome for the title game in just their 11th year of college football competition.”
USF, 6-0 at that point, had also beaten No. 17 Auburn and No. 5 West Virginia in 2007. The Bulls trailed only Ohio State in the BCS rankings after demolishing UCF.
“I can’t believe anybody would beat us like that,” Knights quarterback Kyle Israel said after the game. “You’ve just got to give credit to South Florida. They played like where they’re ranked.”
Grothe threw TD passes of 9 yards to Taurus Johnson and 7 yards to Cedric Hill. He also scored on a pair of 6-yard runs before being replaced by Grant Gregory with USF leading 43-10 in the third quarter.
George Selvie, the nation’s sack leader, led a swarming defense that ended Smith’s streak of five consecutive 100-yard games. Meanwhile, USF extended its streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to 14 games.
“It was a great challenge,” Selvie said. “We love it, but we’ve got to keep it that way all season.”
The Bulls did not keep it that way all season, however. They lost their next three games by an average of five points.
But they rebounded to win their last three games, averaging 48 points in victories against Syracuse, Louisville and Pitt.
Despite a 56-21 loss to Oregon in the Sun Bowl, USF football reached new heights. The Bulls averaged 53,170 fans in six home games at Raymond James Stadium.
“It’s tremendously exciting to see how the whole Tampa Bay community is embracing this team,” said USF Athletic Director Doug Woolard, “and the national recognition and branding the entire university is receiving.”
It was also the last time a Big East team reached that high in the BCS rankings. Today, the football remnants of the Big East play in the American Athletic Conference.
On the cover and above: George Selvie (95) and South Florida overpowered I-4 War rival Central Florida 64-12 on Oct. 13, 2007. The victory propelled the Bulls to No. 2 in the season’s initial BCS rankings. (Courtesy USF Athletics)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Saint Louis and Samford
• Tuesday: Sam Houston State and Seattle
• Wednesday: South Florida and Southeast Missouri State
• Thursday: Southeastern Louisiana and SIU Edwardsville
• Friday: SMU and Southern Mississippi