The USF football team’s last chance to beat Conference USA foe Southern Miss before the Bulls dart to the Big East next season didn’t turn out like they hoped.
Numerous penalties and miscues dug USF into a big hole early and Southern Miss escaped a late Bulls charge with its 11th straight conference win.The loss was only the fifth for USF at Raymond James Stadium.
“Southern Miss has been the best team in Conference USA over the years, and we had them at home with every chance to beat them,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “That’s what makes it tough for me.”
Numerous penalties and miscues made it tough for the Bulls.
Combine the fact that USF had more penalty yards than rushing yards with quarterback Pat Julmiste’s four interceptions and it isn’t exactly a recipe for success.
But the Bulls have overcome mistakes at home; any team with a similar home record (34-5) has.
“You just really can’t explain it,” said Andre Hall, who is new to the team this season but has quickly become its outspoken leader. “There isn’t much talking going on. Everybody is just thinking about what they could’ve done better. You know how it is when you lose. Everybody’s sad right now. We really wanted to win this game.”
The Bulls went into halftime down 13-3, but Southern Miss stretched its lead to 17 when Dustin Almond hit Marvin Young for a 45-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter.
USF would make a late charge. After the defense stopped Golden Eagle running back Anthony Harris on fourth and 1, the Bulls finally found some momentum.
“Yeah, we had a momentum shift back our way,” Julmiste said.
Julmiste and Hall then put together one of the night’s few decent drives. Julmiste had passes over 20 yards to S.J. Green and Johnnie Peyton and Hall’s 26-yard run got USF in scoring range. Hall ran it in to cut the lead to 10.
Two USF drives later, there was a chance to cut it down to three. A snap sailed over Southern Miss punter Luke Johnson’s head for a 38-yard loss, setting the Bulls up with first-and-goal at the two. Three unsuccessful plays forced the Bulls to settle for a 21-yard Santiago Gramatica field goal.
USF had one last shot, but a penalty killed their chances for good.
With time running down in the fourth and the Golden Eagles nearing scoring range, Javan Camon intercepted a pass that would have given the Bulls a shot to tie the game — until Bruce Gipson was called for pass interference. Southern Miss took advantage and scored on the next play.
“Offensively, we didn’t play like we should and it shows,” said Julmiste, who hadn’t thrown an interception all year. “We didn’t come out with a win because we didn’t play like we should.
“It’s all on me. I forced the balls and that’s it. No excuses. I never really got a chance because of the penalties and because I made dumb mistakes and dumb reads and never could get in that zone.”
Julmiste said after the game Leavitt told the team this loss will be a tough one to swallow and that USF has just got to regroup and come back.
“We had a chance to be 2-0 against two pretty tough teams … instead we’re 1-1 and battling. It’s a long season,” Leavitt said.