With the way USF positioned itself for a possible Big East title by winning three straight conference games heading into the weekend, losing against Big East-leading Pittsburgh 17-10 on Saturday will sting for a while.
“Losing is not a lot of fun, especially when you’ve been on a three-game winning streak,” coach Skip Holtz said after USF’s 17-10 loss to the Panthers, which all but eliminated the Bulls’ chances of winning their first conference title in school history. “I just really hurt for these players. I hurt for these seniors for how hard they worked and all the praise that we’ve
given them for all the things that they’ve accomplished in the last three weeks.”
“I’m proud of them, the way they put their hearts and souls into this game,” he said. “Pitt is a good football team, and we lined up and played against the No. 1 team (in the conference), stood toe-to-toe, but we just came up short.”
As has been the case for most of the season, the offense sputtered, especially in key situations.
In the first quarter, down 3-0, the Bulls had second-and-1 at the Pittsburgh 15 but were pushed back to the 34-yard line after two penalties and a negative
Down 17-10 with the ball, the Bulls went 21 yards on seven plays, and quarterback B.J. Daniels was intercepted by Pittsburgh’s Antuan Reed to end the game.
“There were some physical things, and there were some things Pitt did, but we certainly didn’t play our best game,” Holtz said. “It’s hard when you know you’re going against a good football team like that. We moved the ball. We had some good things, we moved the ball and played hard. We just weren’t great on third down, and we didn’t have a lot of those big plays like we’ve had the last couple weeks that have given us the opportunity to put some points on the board.
Daniels completed 15-of-29 pass attempts for just 132 yards.
The defense, meanwhile, kept the Bulls in the game, giving up just 292 yards of total offense.
Pittsburgh (6-4, 4-1) remains in first and in control of its own destiny in the Big East race, while USF (6-4, 3-3) dropped to fifth in the conference standings with games at Miami and home against Connecticut to close out its schedule.
“That’s been one of the goals (winning the conference) that we’ve talked about, but we’ve always talked about the journey, the 12-game journey, and it’s not that you’re playing for something, they are playing for one another,” Holtz said. “You don’t go out that hard just because every guy on the team wants a ring. We’ve all got goals that we want to accomplish, and it’s unfortunate that those are taken away with a loss, but we’ve still got an awful lot to play for.”