Alan Dell

Commentary | USF's Holtz getting too comfy in Heartbreak Hotel


The USF-Miami game wasn’t supposed to be about two teams fighting for an obscure bowl.

When this series was set up a few years back, we were told it would rival some of those traditional matchups that dominate the airwaves this time of year.

But now it’s a game to avoid mediocrity and whatever lies beneath.

Miami came into Raymond James Stadium on Saturday at 5-5. USF was 5-4.

For USF fans, it’s still a great matchup, which is why Miami doesn’t want to renew the series.

A victory would’ve taken some of the sting out of USF’s disappointing season, but instead it just got worse.

The Canes nailed a 36-yard field goal as time expired, and again the Bulls found themselves sitting at the doorstep of Heartbreak Hotel.

It should come as no surprise. Bulls head coach Skip Holtz is the sole proprietor of that piece of property.

To the victor go the spoils or whatever is left, and maybe the Canes won a trip to the St. Petersburg Bowl with their 6-3 victory.

You can already hear the jokesters comparing this game to the LSU’s 9-6 win over Alabama.

Listening to Holtz try and explain how his team has blown three games because of last-minute defensive lapses requires an interpreter.

He has no answers, which is why his Bulls are reeling with five losses in their past six games. Each time they find a new way to lose.

Holtz sells hope, but buyer beware!

His players’ hearts are broken, and Holtz answers questions by telling reporters they are not looking at the big picture while his assistants play along.

“They threw the ball and caught it,” USF defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said after the game when asked to explain how Miami went 61 yards on 15 plays, converting four third downs on the winning field goal drive.

Cincinnati did a similar thing against USF and so did Rutgers.

Holtz wants to sell his stock in Heartbreak Hotel, but there are no takers. He has earned squatters rights, though this piece of property is mobile.

Holtz took it to Piscataway when Rutgers broke his heart.

Cincinnati did it to his Bulls at Raymond James Stadium, which is where the property is listed.

Holtz tries explain those late-game drives by telling us about the greatness of Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros and his counterpart at Miami, Jacory Harris.

That’s what happens when you reside in Heartbreak Hotel too long. Your mind plays tricks on you. You can become delusional. You tell people you could easily be 9-1 instead of 5-5 and actually believe it as if all it took was one play to change it all.

Holtz can tell us how proud he is of his players and he should be. He can tell us how his offense was limited after quarterback B.J. Daniels went out of the game early in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and he is right.

But this has become an old movie that has the same ending. Nobody wants to see it anymore.

Holtz keeps telling us the big picture looks different than what we are able to see. If he is looking through a pair of binoculars that reveals something else, please let us know.

It’s not like departed coach Jim Leavitt left the cupboard bare. Holtz inherited some talent, particularly on defense.

USF has two games left, and if it wins one it can hope to get an invitation to the St. Petersburg Bowl if the bid isn’t taken by Miami.

This is not what USF fans wanted when the school hired Holtz.

“I don’t know if I would look at this as a tailspin because of the way this team continues to compete,” Holtz said. “Yeah, it’s hard to lose a game like this. There is a lot of hurt in that room, but I don’t know if we are wrapping our arms around the big picture with the questions I am getting.”

Heartbreak Hotel clouds your vision, we’ve been told.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.