Meineke Car Care Bowl


South Florida 0

(6-6, 2-5 away)

NC State 14

(7-5, 5-3 home)

Coverage: ESPN2

11:00 AM ET, December 31, 2005

1 2 3 4 T
USF 0 0 0 00
NCST 0 14 0 014

Top Performers

Passing: M. Stone (NCST) - 127 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: A. Hall (USF) - 19 CAR, 118 YDS

Receiving: B. Clark (NCST) - 3 REC, 66 YDS, 1 TD

Upstart Bulls ready for first bowl appearance

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Andre Hall had a slew of established programs to choose from when he left junior college, yet shunned them all for South Florida -- college football's equivalent of an expansion team.

"I wanted to be the big fish in a little pond," the running back said Friday. "I wanted to help build something."

Mission accomplished.

Hall leads South Florida (6-5) into its first postseason game Saturday against North Carolina State (6-5) in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Just being invited to a bowl is a near victory for the Bulls, who only started their football program in 1995.

South Florida didn't move up to Division I-A until 2001, but had instant success with three winning seasons. But the Bulls' lack of a major conference affiliation kept them out of a bowl, much to the dismay of their players.

"The seniors, we played on an 8-3 team and didn't go to a bowl. We played on a 9-2 team and didn't go to a bowl and we played on a 7-4 team and didn't go to a bowl," safety Johnnie Jones said. "So we decided there is no way we are spending the holidays at home again this year."

As a new member of the Big East, South Florida finally had credentials to be included in the bowl process. Now, the 100th game in school history will be the biggest to date as the Bulls try to prove they've finally arrived.

But coach Jim Leavitt, who left his job as defensive coordinator at Kansas to build South Florida from the ground up, has a tough task ahead of him. He's got to keep his players focused on the actual game and convinced that simply making it into a bowl is not the payoff the school is after.

"Everybody is so excited about getting to a bowl -- but it is not enough," Leavitt said. "We want to win this football game and that's it. I would hope that every player on our team wants to win in the worst way and does all they can to do that."

It all starts with Hall, who rushed for a Big East-leading 1,256 yards with 13 touchdowns this season. He also led South Florida with 24 catches for 272 yards, and another two touchdowns.

It's the role Hall was looking for when he chose South Florida and readily admits he "needed the attention" of being the team star. But his needs have changed after two seasons under Leavitt, who has molded a group of 13 selfless seniors who voted against having four permanent team captains this season in favor of rotating each week among the most deserving seniors.

"Whoever played hard the week before got to come out the next week as a captain," Hall said. "It sort of became a motivator, something you went after each week."

But not this week. Hall was voted a team captain for Saturday's game, but says he will defer the honor to one of South Florida's four-year players.

"I won't go out," he said. "We've got guys who have been here four years who deserve it over me."

The Bulls might have surprised a team or two this season -- they pounded Louisville in a 45-14 win, and were able to hang with Penn State and Miami -- but the Wolfpack won't be one of them.

N.C. State coach Chuck Amato has warned his team that South Florida won't be a pushover, and he dismisses the Bulls wanting the win more because it's their first bowl game.

"Half of our team hasn't played in a bowl game either, and of the half who haven't, there are an awful lot of them who are playing and starting," Amato said. "It is a big, big day in the history of South Florida to play in their first bowl. Hopefully, we can make it a day that they won't want to remember."

N.C. State had to claw its way into the bowl game by salvaging a season that seemed lost when the Wolfpack was 2-4. But a late rally -- four wins in the last five games -- made N.C. State bowl eligible.

The turnaround began on Oct. 29 against Southern Mississippi with the Wolfpack trailing 14-0. In his first career start, quarterback Marcus Stone had just one completion and two interceptions when Amato decided to give running back Andre Brown the ball.

Brown responded with 248 yards on the ground while rallying N.C. State to a 21-17 victory.

He continued to pile up the yards from there and eased Stone's transition.

"He definitely took a lot of pressure off of me," said Stone, who finished 4-1 as a starter. "Our main goal from there was just to get bowl eligible and make it to any bowl that would accept us."


Passing Leaders

M. White50.4163987
S. Bench49.061132
J. Brissett59.72606235
B. Hines33.32000

Rushing Leaders

M. Mack20210415.29
D. Johnson461503.30
S. Thornton1649075.59
M. Dayes1045735.58

Receiving Leaders

A. Davis3659416.57
R. Adams2332314.02
B. Hines4561613.71
D. Grinnage2735813.35