Your USF Bulls had just seen their hard-earned lead trimmed to three points in the final minute of the fourth quarter when Notre Dame attempted an onside kick. It was still a longshot, but if they recovered, then the Irish would have the ball around their own 45 and if everything were to go spookily right for them — and wrong for us — in the ensuing 21 seconds, they could have attempted to kick a tying field goal, and everything that had been good, green and gold about my alma mater’s first trip to South Bend for football would have gone instead to hell.
But Lindsey Lamar, junior wide receiver in on coverage as part of the hands team, expertly snatched Notre Dame’s last prayer out of the air on its luckiest bounce and Your USF Bulls held on to win a most gratifying season-opener, 23-20.
You might even say metaphorical lightning struck, considering this was hallowed Notre Dame, wake up the echoes and all that tripe (my cognitively dissonant love for Rudy notwithstanding), while we are USF, a school whose pigskin tradition dates back a solid fifteen seasons now. Actually, you’d definitely have to say lightning struck. It struck so much that officials halted the game twice, delaying it in progress for nearly three combined hours, necessitating the shifting of its conclusion from NBC to Versus. But that’s OK. Your USF Bulls hail from Tampa, where we would get lightning like the British took tea: every afternoon by four.
I began attending the University of South Florida thirty years ago this week. We had no football then. We had intramural softball. I went out for it, and then came back from it, realizing how overmatched I was by the proliferation of athletic specimens populating my dorm. But I was always willing to lend out my glove to one guy or another on whatever floor I lived for four years. And I went to a few basketball games, so don’t say I didn’t — or don’t — have school spirit.
Yes indeed, I’d been looking forward to this game ever since I discovered it on the USF schedule. I mean little old USF (not so little, with more than 45,000 students, and not so old, with its charter dating to 1956 and its football team kicking off in 1997) versus vaunted Notre Dame! Vaunted despite producing Aaron Heilman! Best of all, it was penciled in perfectly for optimal Saturday viewing. Watch the Bulls stampede the Irish at 3:30, engage in a triumphant round of “The Bull” when it was over, and then mentally change out of my gridiron gear for my usual psychological ensemble of blue and orange at seven.
But then, like I said, lightning struck, and football bled into baseball, and the Bulls and Mets kind of morphed into one big home team for me, with B.J. Daniels directing the offense and Manny Acosta heading up special teams and Jason Bay finding himself in the unfamiliar position of being untouched in the end zone for a tying score.
It was all going to work, too, Indiana weather or not. The Bulls took care of business by not blowing a lead and the Mets were on the verge of the same by overcoming a harrowing deficit. All I needed for a perfect Saturday was one inning — three outs — from Bobby Parnell.
I still need a couple of those outs.
And I still need the Nationals stopped on their final desperation drive.
And I still need Coach Collins to not employ the prevent defense because, as the habitually quoted Warner Wolf made clear, all it does is prevent you from winning.
The blur crystallized clearly in the bottom of the ninth. The Bulls’ marvelous Saturday was not transferable to the Mets. The Nationals read Collins’s intentional bases-loading scheme expertly. Lucas Duda could not snatch the Nats’ last prayer out of the air. And Parnell proved once more that his are not yet the hands in which you wish to place a tenuous lead late in a game.