What could have been the 100th home win for USF turned into a nightmare against Tulsa on Friday.
In their fifth consecutive loss, the Bulls (1-5, 0-4) were exposed in a 42-13 loss to the Golden Hurricane (2-0, 2-1) at Raymond James Stadium.
“Tulsa executed very well and we did not,” coach Jeff Scott said. “And I just thought that was kind of the story.”
The lack of execution came almost immediately.
Jordan McCloud, named the starter two weeks ago, was pulled in the first quarter after going 2-of-7 for 8 yards.
Noah Johnson replaced McCloud and played for most of the game, going 18-of-27 for 150 yards. He also ran for 28 yards on nine attempts.
The only USF touchdown came in the third quarter and was set up by Cade Fortin, the third quarterback to take snaps for USF.
Fortin went 2-of-2 for 25 yards and ran for 39 yards on four attempts, including a 33-yard dash to Tulsa’s 6-yard line. His performance set up Johnson’s 4-yard touchdown pass to receiver Bryce Miller.
Scott said something needed to change and decided to play Johnson for the majority of the game.
“I felt like Noah came in and really gave us a spark… and some energy to him,” he said. “I felt like our offense was able to move the ball a little bit.”
It wasn’t perfect with Johnson under center, however. He had three turnovers, including a fumble on Tulsa’s 4-yard line just before the end of the first half and a pick-six in the third, making it 35-13 Tulsa.
“[When] we did finally have some momentum, I felt like it was a couple plays later and they had a home run,” Scott said.
“Just kind of went downhill from there.”
Fortin, who technically had a perfect completion rate, went down with what looked like a shoulder injury the play before Johnson’s touchdown pass.
USF’s three quarterbacks combined for 183 passing yards, and the offense only accumulated 305 yards to Tulsa’s 462.
The 157-yard difference was partly due to Tulsa’s defense, which Scott had warned his team about as they prepared for the game. The Golden Hurricane had 66 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
“We knew that it was going to be tough running the ball up the middle,” Scott said. “We tried to have some perimeter plays and some perimeter screens and we just didn’t block as well as we needed to for some of the outside runs.”
The other half was the lack of USF’s pass defense. The Bulls allowed Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith to throw for 233 yards and go 16-of-24. Defensive back Daquan Evans picked off Smith on a 31-yard return, however.
Tulsa’s receivers averaged 13.8 yards per reception.
Rush defense was also lacking, as seven of Tulsa’s rushers combined for 227 yards and four touchdowns. They averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
Working in tandem with USF’s inconsistent quarterback carousel and stalled offense, Tulsa’s offense proved to outmatch the Bulls’ defense.
With a bye week on the horizon, there’s a chance to reassess not only what’s happening on the field but also what’s happening on the sideline and in the locker room.
After being told he would not return for the rest of the game in the third quarter, defensive back Nick Roberts ripped off his pads and walked to the locker room on his own.
Scott said that he had not spoken to Roberts yet.
“We got two weeks to get ready for our next game and got to kind of re-examine and re-evaluate what we’re doing and the only way we’re going to get it corrected is [with] the guys in that locker room, coaches and players, so that’s what we’ll do,” Scott said.