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College football | Willie Taggart hoping the 'miracle' at Tulsa can spur his USF football team to win over Cincinnati

TAMPA -- Call it the Willie Taggart Pixie Dust.

It is spawned from happy thoughts that can generate an aura of invincibility.

Flying without wings?

It's what Taggart's USF football team seems to be doing right now.

The Bulls head coach has been preaching confidence since he took over the program two years ago, but until Saturday's historic comeback win over Tulsa his players were known best for moping when things got tough.

Taggart, whose resume is littered with miracle-style victories, hopes the win over Tulsa can change that forever.

In his first year at hapless Western Kentucky, he went 2-10.

The Manatee quarterback legend lost the first four games the following season, but then that Taggart phenomenon erupted when WKU defeated Middle Tennessee in overtime.

The Hilltoppers went on to win seven of eight games and finish 7-5. Taggart was also an assistant at Stanford when the 41 point underdog Cardinal upset USC and turned its program around.

Taggart is not ready to call Tulsa a Pixie Dust game changer, but says the possibility is there.

"The big thing is that our guys know how win football games," Taggart. "Our team is gaining confidence. To be able to come back and win the game after being down by 20 points at half, to show that resolve; I am really proud of our guys playing the kind of football we knew we were capable of playing."

The Tulsa game may have also marked the coming out of quarterback Mike White, who has put up impressive numbers the last two games since the return of receiver Andre Davis.

"Ever since Andre has been back, Mike has been different," Taggart said. "You can tell it was a big loss for our offense and for Mike (when Davis was out). Since he's been back I am seeing a

total difference in our football team."

The Bulls have a chance to keep the momentum going Friday night at Cincinnati, a place that has not been kind to the Bulls.

USF is 1-4 at Cincinnati and 4-7 overall in a series that has been played in three different conferences they shared: C-USA, Big East and American Athletic Conference.

USF's first head coach Jim Leavitt never won at Cincinnati in three tries. Skip Holtz did it in 2010, and this is Taggart's first attempt.

The Bearcats were preseason favorites to win the AAC. Their offense revolves around quarterback Gunner Kiel, a Notre Dame transfer who has thrown for 1,853 yards and 19 touchdowns with six interceptions.

Cincinnati has the AAC's second-ranked offense, but the Bearcats' woes are on defense. Earlier in the season, they lost three straight (Ohio State, Memphis and Miami) while giving up a combined 146 points.

The Bearcats rank 119th nationally in rushing defense, which would seem to play into the strength of the Bulls' Marlon Mack, the AAC's leading rusher with 727 yards.

In the Tulsa game, the Bulls also got to see the potential of freshman running back D'Ernest Johnson, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry and made an acrobatic one-handed catch. Darius Tice, the Bulls' No. 2 rusher last season, also is capable.

"That was a position of need and we addressed that and it's paying off for us," Taggart said. "Any one of them can come in, and we don't have to minimize our game plan. When you can run the football the pass game becomes a little easier for you."

Taggart always stresses that attitude is an important part of winning, which makes him feel so pleased about what happened at Tulsa.

"A lot of it was our mentality on the sidelines. When we were down I didn't see our kids put their heads down," Taggart said. "I'm always looking for it because I know we are in trouble once we get that. I didn't get that even when we were down. That let me know we had a chance."

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