Frustration on the part of both teams summed up the second half of the USF-Utah game Saturday evening in Salt Lake City. In their 52-21 win, the Utes controlled the ball and mixed two strong rushers with an equally lethal passing game.
And the 31-0 score at halftime didn’t end the Bulls’ hopes until the first Utah play of the third quarter went 62 yards for a score that frustrated the players on both sides. It started with a mistake that should have ended with an offside penalty against the Bulls, but after senior Tchecoy Blount crossed the line of scrimmage he barreled through an unsuspecting Utah offensive lineman. The result: the first of a chain of 15-yard personal foul penalties, which plagued both teams in the third quarter.
The Bulls, already trailing the Utes 38-0, were rightfully frustrated, but when USF regained the ball after a failed fourth down attempt, the personal fouls came from Utah.
“Everybody was frustrated. But I can tell you that our guys who committed personal fouls, they didn’t play any more that night,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said.
On the first play of the Bulls’ first touchdown drive was one of many incomplete passes for the Bulls, this time to sophomore Chris Iskra. However, the Bulls did earn 15 yards when a pass interference call gave USF a first down. Two Utah personal foul penalties added 30 yards to freshman Clenton Crossley’s rushes in the next two plays.
Another incomplete pass, this time to sophomore Huey Whittaker, was nullified by another pass interference call. A few plays later a personal foul face mask penalty cost the Utes the ball as they intercepted junior Marquel Blackwell in the end zone. The Bulls finally scored on a pass from Blackwell to freshman Brian Fisher and the kick from Gramatica made the game 38-7.
“I think if you look at the stats they had twice as many personal fouls as we did,” Leavitt said. “But I’m not concerned with them, I’m concerned with us. That can’t happen.”
The Utes first scored two quarters earlier at the 9:45 mark, when running back Dameon Hunter walked untouched four yards into the end zone. The Bulls went three and out and punted the ball 34 yards, giving the Utes the ball back in good field position. The second Utah drive was cut short by a Joe Morgan interception and once again the Bulls couldn’t put anything together. After another three-and-out possession, Devin Sanderson’s punt gave the Utes the ball back on their 40-yard line.
A 37-yard touchdown pass from Utah quarterback Lance Rice to Josh Lyman gave the Utes their second score of the first quarter. On the following kickoff, Kenny Robinson fumbled on the 18-yard line, placing Utah inside the red zone. After another first down, Rice struck again with a pass, making the game 21-0.
A fumble by Blackwell after a hit behind the line of scrimmage gave Utah the ball on their side of the 50-yard line. The Utes utilized a strong rushing mixture from Hunter and fullback Adam Tate to push the team to field-goal position, making the game 24-0. On its last possession of the half, Utah scored again with a pass from Rice to Lyman for a 35-yard touchdown. After a Hail Mary pass from Blackwell fell incomplete, the quarter ended 31-0.
The Bulls continued to have a poor performance on offense and punted the ball, giving the Utes the ball in what seemed like usual good field position. It took one pass play from Rice to Tate for a 62-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach.
Two plays from Tate, a 62-yard rush and a pounding push into the end zone made the game 45-7. During the next Bull possession an interception by Utah’s Dave Rivell made the game 52-7.
Blackwell found Smith for USF’s second score of the game. And the one good thing that comes from a big scoring difference is young players getting an opportunity to play. An example of this was the last scoring drive of the game, when freshman quarterback Ronnie Banks took his first career snaps and passed to freshman Jason Bingham, who caught his first pass for a touchdown with eight seconds left in the game.
“They beat the dog out of us,” Leavitt said. “They are a better team than us.”