ORLANDO — The marvel of Space Mountain dissipated decades ago. Doctor Doom's Fearfall at Universal, while a nifty defiance of gravity, has its ups and downs. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? Please.
To many locals, Orlando's most dizzying experience — spanning two autumns and featuring far more climbs than dips — can be found on the city's northeastern fringe. Let Lake Buena Vista have all the coasters. Accelerating from zero to 60 has nothing on the sensation of propelling from 0-12 to 10-0....
1. Senior RB D'Ernest Johnson, woefully underutilized as a pass receiver this season, had two receptions for 38 yards in the game. The team's second-leading receiver in 2016 (28 catches, 293 yards), Johnson had only seven receptions in the first nine games. That component of the offense could come in handy next week at UCF.
2. Seniors accounted for all 279 of the Bulls' rushing yards against Tulsa. As effectively as Willie Taggart and Charlie Strong have recruited in recent years, USF has some rebuilding to do in 2018....
TAMPA — The senior night festivities and Tulsa formality didn't go according to script for USF on a crisp Thursday evening.
Hardly romp-and-circumstance stuff. To the contrary, the effort was barely sufficient against a two-win foe.
USF's 27-20 win against Tulsa was secured only after Golden Hurricane quarterback Chad President threw an incompletion on fourth and 9 from the Bulls 30 with 27 seconds to play....
TAMPA -- The sibling argument had escalated by the time Lisa Martinez returned home from the movies with her daughter.
Mike Love, the witty but wayward kid who recently had moved into the Martinez family's Safety Harbor house, was gone by the time Lisa got there. Left in his wake was Dalton, the youngest of Lisa's three biological boys and Mike's best friend since middle school.
"I had made a joke to a girl or something, and he thought I was like, calling him out," Dalton recalled. "So he was mad that I was talking about him."...
ORLANDO — Less than four days after USF unveiled plans for a $40 million football-exclusive facility, UCF officials and donors were brandishing gold-painted shovels Saturday morning in a ceremonial groundbreaking for a football operations headquarters.
Yet for all the fanciful renderings and futuristic visions spawned by the I-4 rivals lately, only one arms race matters for the moment....
TAMPA —A couple of hours after dawn broke on the Brian Gregory era, mild bedlam broke out.
Graduate transfer Stephan Jiggetts' jump shot just inside the free-throw line with 12 seconds to play lifted USF to a 60-59 victory Friday against Florida Atlantic, bringing a moment of delirium to a program previously in dysfunction.
The victory, before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 4,192, capped a USF doubleheader sweep. The No. 23 Bulls women topped LSU 61-55....
TAMPA — The USF Sun Dome, domicile of Bulls basketball, still bears the sparkle of a $36 million facelift, which concluded in 2012 and made it a sleeker, shinier mausoleum.
It has become the place where men's coaching careers go to die and mediocrity goes to roost. The Bulls' average home attendance last season: 2,586. Every other American Athletic Conference school not named Tulane averaged at least 1,400 more. ...
TAMPA — Long before her team's season ended on a buzzer beater in the NCAA Tournament's opening round against Missouri, Laia Flores had become an authority on excruciation.
Technically, she was the only healthy point guard on USF's roster, which is to say, the only one not confined to a knee brace. Flores tore ligaments in her right ankle in the opening minutes of a Feb. 5 loss at Memphis but chose to trudge onward, subsisting on tape jobs and tenacity....
1. Saturday's score could have — and probably should have — been worse. USF had at least four drops, including an excruciating one by Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the end zone when he was well behind his defender. (In fairness, Valdes-Scantling atoned with a 95-yard catch-and-run touchdown, and snagged an onside kick).
2. Enjoy the magic of Quinton Flowers while you still can, Bulls fans (and you have a minimum three more games to relish). A two-play sequence in the fourth quarter epitomized his mesmerizing blend of athleticism and instinctiveness: He gained 9 yards on a third-and-12 dash up the middle, but the play was negated by Valdes-Scantling's illegal block. So on third and 13, Flowers ran the same play — and gained 20. "It's just amazing to watch Quinton sometimes and how he gets out of trouble," coach Charlie Strong said....
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Fresh off its first loss in more than a calendar year, USF regained a few shots of swagger and mojo — maybe even a ranking — with Saturday's 37-20 victory against struggling Connecticut.
The next couple of days will indicate whether any pollsters were swayed. What's more certain is that many previously disgruntled fans likely were appeased.
Maligned (and periodically booed) for a predictable, power-based offensive game plan in their 28-24 loss to Houston, the Bulls (8-1, 5-1 American Athletic Conference) diversified more — and totaled 602 yards — on a crisp autumn afternoon before an announced Pratt & Whitney Stadium crowd of 18,430....
TAMPA — Naturally, the minutes and hours after USF's first loss of 2017 featured excruciation in bulk. The wounds caused by Houston's surreal winning drive were fresh and festering.
The Cougars' 50-yard kick return? Brutal. Their fourth-and-24 conversion? Back-breaking. A 20-yard touchdown scramble with 11 seconds to go? Ball game.
"I've never seen a team so down," coach Charlie Strong said of his USF squad....
Three days after Florida and coach Jim McElwain parted ways, some of his former SEC colleagues weighed in on a move that could ripple across the profession.
"I think we all feel for our comrades when things like that happen," Kentucky's Mark Stoops said. "It's very sad to see that happen to Coach Mac."
The speed of McElwain's fall was surprising. The 2015 SEC coach of the year won division titles in his first two seasons, but he didn't even get a chance to finish out his third year. ...
ESPN's broadcast of the initial College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday evening left no one hanging. A mere 16 minutes into the show, the entire top 25 had been revealed.
What the unveiling of the rankings lacked in suspense, it also lacked in surprises. At least major ones.
Georgia (8-0), Alabama (8-0), Notre Dame (7-1) and Clemson (7-1) are Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively; with Oklahoma, Ohio State, Penn State and TCU taking the next four spots. ...
Former USF speedster Rodney Adams was waived Monday by the Vikings, who drafted him in the fifth round in April.
Adams, who shined in the preseason (nine catches, 73 yards, two touchdowns) but hadn't appeared in a regular season game, became expendable when veteran WR Michael Floyd recently returned from a four-game suspension.
The team also seems more enamored with seventh-round draft choice Stacy Coley, a former University of Miami star who has appeared in four games.
A Lakewood High alumnus, Adams set a USF single-season mark with 67 catches last season, and finished with 16 careeer receiving touchdowns -- one shy of the program mark.
His departure from the Vikings means Indianapolis TB Marlon Mack remains the only one of USF's three 2017 draftees still on an active roster. Adams, however, could be claimed by another team....
A look at Connecticut, which hosts USF on Saturday at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn.
Record: 3-5 (2-3 American Athletic Conference)
Wins: vs. Holy Cross, 27-20; at Temple, 28-24; vs. Tulsa, 20-14
Losses: at Virginia, 38-18; vs. East Carolina, 41-38; at SMU, 49-28; vs. Memphis, 70-31; vs. Missouri, 52-12
Coach: Randy Edsall (first season back at UConn, 3-5; 18th season overall, 99-109; 74-70 in first stint at UConn)
Offensive breakdown: Despite losing four games by 20 or more points, the Huskies have done just enough to make Bulls fans squirm. They're averaging only 25.3 points (85th nationally) and struggling mightily on the ground (130.6 ypg), but fifth-year senior QB Bryant Shirreffs has had his moments. Two weeks ago against Tulsa, he finished 23-of-29 for 372 yards, but was sacked five times and finished 19-of-39 Saturday against Missouri. Saturday's clunker notwithstanding, Shirreffs has enjoyed a resurrection of sorts under first-year coordinator (and former Auburn offensive architect) Rhett Lashlee. Earlier this season, he became the first Huskies QB to record back-to-back 400-yard passing efforts, and ranks 15th nationally in pass efficiency (156.0). Moreover, UConn is ranked 22nd in the country in pass offense (292.4 ypg). Problem is, Shirreffs is getting little support from his blockers or backfield. UConn allows three sacks a game, which ranks last in the AAC, and has run for more than 200 yards in only one game. Senior RB Arkeel Newsome, UConn's top rusher each of the past two years and a bona fide receiving threat out of the backfield, remains out with a sternum/clavicle injury.
Defensive breakdown: For a USF team in need of a solid offensive effort to regain some of its mojo, UConn seems the ideal antidote. The Huskies rank 127th nationally in total defense (548.4 ypg) and 123rd in pass-efficiency defense (160.94). Three different quarterbacks have thrown for more than 400 yards against UConn, while two wideouts have had 200-yard performances. Senior LB Junior Joseph (68 tackles, three sacks) is the crown jewel of Edsall's 3-3-5 system, but the green secondary behind him (two true freshmen, one redshirt freshman) has struggled. The veteran of the group, 2015 first-team All-AAC pick Jamar Summers, had his first interception of the year Saturday against Missouri, then drew Edsall's ire by throwing the ball at the intended receiver. "That ain't happening in this program," Edsall told the Hartford Courant.
Odds and ends: The Bulls-Huskies game, originally scheduled for Sept. 9, was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. ... Keep an eye on the Hartford weather, which ultimately could play a factor. Saturday's forecast in Hartford (per The Weather Channel) calls for temperatures in the mid- to low-40s with a 40-percent chance of rain. ... UConn's roster features seven Floridians, but none from the bay area.
Audible: "They're a different football team, they're a better football team than they were (in early September). ... And they try so much misdirection and try to get the ball on the perimeter, and they have enough where they can run down inside. The quarterback does a great job of managing the offense and making the throws." -- Charlie Strong...