Hey, stop me if you’ve heard this story before. The South Florida Bulls come out like gangbusters in September, win a big game on the road, get themselves some national attention, and then they get into Big East play and promptly demonstrate themselves to be a fraud by losing ugly games to teams they should beat. Well guess what, it’s happened again. This time the Bulls are quickly 0-2 in the conference after a 16-10 loss to the Connecticut Huskies in East Hartford on Saturday.
Despite facing a team that had given up over 900 yards passing to their previous two opponents (including that noted juggernaut Western Michigan), the Bulls simply refused to take any chances down the field against a secondary missing its best defender, Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Instead, USF continued trying to establish the run deep into the fourth quarter and even on their final drive of the game. Their only touchdown came on the first drive of the second half, when B.J. Daniels was turned loose and completed 5-for-5 for 62 yards. Then he finished the drive with a dazzling 22-yard touchdown run to give the Bulls a 10-6 lead.
However, it was right back to running the ball after that, and ultimately it led to the margin of defeat. After UConn answered the Bulls’ opening drive with a field goal, Darrell Scott fumbled the ball and Byron Jones ran it back 10 yards for a touchdown. USF had some success moving the ball after that, but never made it inside the Huskies red zone as their attempts to win the game all came up well short.
The weak offensive game plan ended up wasting a strong defensive effort. The Bulls tied a school record with seven sacks of UConn quarterback Johnny McEntee, including a spectacular effort from defensive end Ryne Giddins (11 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble). But when USF really needed a stop in the final minutes, they couldn’t prevent Lyle McCombs from running out the clock on them. McCombs finished with 130 yards rushing on 32 carries.
USF’s chances of winning the Big East are basically gone, even though the season is only halfway finished. The Bulls will now settle into their usual role of near-total late-season irrelevance, beginning with Saturday’s homecoming game against Cincinnati at Raymond James Stadium at noon.
For more coverage and grousing, check out Voodoo Five, SB Nation’s USF blog.