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Loss to Seminoles leaves questions for USF

Published: Monday, October 1, 2012

Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 00:10

The 30-17 loss to the 4th-ranked Seminoles, has the USF football team stuck. Though the loss was
not devastating enough to simply throw away, it was not close enough to build a great deal of confidence.

Since the Bulls opened the season with a 34-13 win over Tennessee-Chattanooga, USF has been unable to play a complete game while losing three straight games.

While the defense was let off the hook in a 32-31 win over Nevada, it was not as lucky in the team’s 31-27 loss to Ball State, in which the Cardinals racked up 413 yards and 31 points. While the unit came up big against Rutgers and Florida State, the offense was unable to consistently move the ball, resulting in losses of 23-13 and 30-17, respectively.

The latest loss — in which the Bulls established the run early but once again relied heavily on senior B.J. Daniels late in the game — opens up a mixed bag for the team.

Coach Skip Holtz told media that the game against Florida State was “a measuring stick game ... to see how we rank with a top five team,” and said he was happy with what he saw from his team following the loss.

“I was really proud of the way this football team played tonight,” he said. “Aside from a couple of plays, I thought they gave themselves a chance.”

Competing and playing well may not be enough for a team that is facing a potential turning point in the 2012 season. With their losing skid hitting three games, the Bulls now head on the road to play Temple in the Owls’ first Big East game since 2004, followed by a trip to 14th-ranked Louisville.

If the Bulls drop both games, they would be looking at a five-game losing streak and a 2-5 record, needing to win four of their final five games to make a bowl game after missing out in 2011.

The question is, what can USF take from its loss to Florida State, a loss that — though not a disaster — still seemed to leave something to be desired?
There were impressive plays throughout the evening. True freshman Tashon Whitehurst’s blocked punt allowed USF to cut the deficit to 13-10 early in the second half, a somewhat consistent running game emerged and the team’s defensive front seven found a renewed aggression.

Despite the optimism, the mistakes and miscues that have defined USF’s tough losses were still prevalent. An interception with one minute left in the second half allowed the Seminoles to kick a 42-yard field goal and take a 13-3 lead into the locker room. A bad kickoff after USF kicked a game-opening field goal turned into a 60-yard kick return, giving the high-powered Seminole offense a short field and an eventual touchdown. But the most impactful error may not have been on the field at all.

After a holding call negated a long run for Daniels to end the third quarter, miscommunication on the sideline forced redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Floyd into the game for one play after Daniels came off for injury. On the untimed down, Floyd was sacked and fumbled, which was returned for a touchdown and a 30-10 Seminole lead.

“There was miscommunication on that play,’’ Holtz said. “B.J. (was hurt), I felt like we had to get him out of there. My headphones weren’t working and coach (Todd) Fitch wasn’t sure whether B.J. was in or out. It was a tough spot to put (Floyd) in. You can’t give a team like that a short field. It was a tough mistake. We didn’t chip the (defensive) end. He came off scott-free off the corner.’’
After the third loss of the young season, the USF football team is facing a defining moment. Though it cannot write off the loss to Florida State as an example of total domination, calling a 13-point home loss a moral victory would be the equivalent of giving up. With a quick return to Big East play on the horizon, the pressure is on for Holtz and his squad.

 

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