USF never trailed in its 33-3 win over Cincinnati (2-5, 0-3) Saturday night at Raymond James stadium, but that didn’t impress coach Charlie Strong.
The defense held the Bearcats to 95 yards rushing and added a touchdown of its own when linebacker Auggie Sanchez intercepted a pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the first half.
The offense produced 30 points for the 23rd consecutive game, tying Oregon for the most consecutive games in NCAA history.
Despite the accolades and win, however, Strong was visibly upset postgame with USF’s performance and the 14 penalties called against it.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Strong said. “We can play much better than what we played (tonight). We have to execute. There were too many penalties. When you play a good football team, you’re going to get beat. We've got to play much better than what we played tonight, because we're a better football team than what we showed tonight. We can't just go out there and kind of just go through the motions thinking we're better than what we actually are."
The offense produced in both the passing (190) and running game (212), but struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone.
In their first three trips inside the Bearcats 20-yard line, the Bulls settled for three field goals by kicker Emilio Nadelman.
Until there were only two minutes remaining in the half, the Bulls’ lead over Cincinnati was only six points. After a 11-yard Darius Tice rushing touchdown and Sanchez’s pick six, however, the Bulls’ took a 23-3 lead into the break.
“It’s hard to get any kind of victory in college football,” linebacker Greg Reaves said. “He (Strong) might’ve been a little upset, but we didn’t play up to our expectations … I think he felt like we might’ve digressed a little bit.”
The defense shut out the Bearcats after the half and sacked backup quarterback Ross Trail, who entered the game in the third quarter, three times.
The Bulls extended their lead on their second drive of the second half, which was capped with a 4th-and-1 quarterback sneak touchdown from quarterback Quinton Flowers. Then, Nadelman connected on his fourth field goal in as many attempts in the game’s first play of the fourth quarter to conclude the games scoring.
The win was USF’s 11th in a row, which is the highest in NCAA Division I-A. The Bulls 6-0 start is the second-best start in program history, and they will have a chance to go 7-0 for the best start in program history next Saturday at Tulane.
To win at Tulane (3-3, 1-1), however, the Bulls’ will have to play better than they did Saturday night.
"Sometimes after a victory, everybody wants to be all jolly,” Strong said. “You can't always be jolly. We didn't play up to our standards, and we can play much better. We haven’t arrived yet.”