USF’s Bobby Eveld stepped onto Rentschler Field with 11:30 remaining on the clock, trying to break a 10-10 tie with UConn that had lasted roughly two quarters.
As the senior quarterback walked into the huddle, he was 5-of-24 on passing attempts.
Somehow, the game was tied and USF had a chance to win.
When USF needed Eveld to step up the most, he did.
Starting from the USF nine-yard-line, the former walk-on completed his first three passes in the drive.
He converted a third down, then hit fellow walk-on, sophomore receiver Ruben Gonzalez, for a 17-yard gain three plays later up to the UConn 42.
They were nearing field goal range.
Then Eveld found junior receiver Andre Davis for a 12-yard gain to the UConn 28. The drive stalled at the 26, but sprinkled in USF’s most impressive drive of the day were seven carries by freshman running back Darius Tice.
USF ran 7:27 off the clock on 13 plays and set up junior placekicker Marvin Kloss for a 44-yard field goal. Kloss made his eighth consecutive field goal of the season and gave USF a 13-10 lead with 4:03 remaining.
The USF defense kept UConn from scoring, and the Bulls have now won two consecutive games without scoring an offensive touchdown.
“Who would’ve thought at 0-4 we’d turn it around?” USF coach Willie Taggart said in a post-game press conference. “Some didn’t think we’d win a game.”
A few weeks ago, Bulls coaches, players and fans were talking about the USF offense’s habit of scoring excessive points for the other team via fumbles and interceptions recovered for touchdowns.
The Bulls came close to giving more points to opponents than they scored for themselves. While USF (2-4, 2-0) hasn’t completely turned in the opposite direction and lit up the scoreboards in their favor, they’ve ceased scoring points for the opposition, at least for the time being.
USF has gone two weeks without throwing an interception or giving up a turnover for points. Winning two games with no offensive touchdowns certainly is not pretty, but it got the job done.
In the win against Cincinnati, USF quarterbacks combined to complete more than 50 percent of their passes for the first time this season. One would think continuing that trend is a key to victory, but that wasn’t the case against UConn (0-5).
Eveld completed less than a third of his passes Saturday, going eight for 28 with 108 passing yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and two sacks. But for just the second time in six games, USF used one quarterback the entire game. Taggart said he never considered switching quarterbacks.
“It wasn’t just Bobby,” he said. “If I thought it was just him then I would’ve, but it was a whole team effort. When we protected for him he showed he can throw the football.”
Eveld helped the Bulls to two field goals, but USF scored their lone touchdown with 1:33 remaining in the first quarter.
Senior defensive end Ryne Giddins sacked UConn freshman quarterback Tim Boyle and forced a fumble, which was scooped up by sophomore Aaron Lynch for a 44-yard touchdown return.
“Three weeks in a row our defense is scooping (the ball up) and scoring,” Taggart said.
It was Lynch’s first big impact play of the season, and he followed with his first sack as a Bull later on.
Senior defensive tackle Luke Sager added a sack and the Bulls’ defense combined for nine tackles-for-loss after giving up more than 130 rushing yards in the first half.
“You’re seeing a team that’s playing for each other,” Taggart said. “If we can get our offense going we’ll have a really good football team.”
The importance of special teams play was apparent in USF’s win, as the kicking battle was won by the Bulls once again. Kloss connected on two more field goals, including the game winner.
UConn placekicker Chad Christen wasn’t so lucky.
Christen attempted three field goals, making one and missing a 49-yarder in the first quarter. He had an attempt blocked in the third quarter by USF junior Mike McFarland, the tight end’s second consecutive week with a block. 12