Bulls falling out of contention

They hung in the game for a while, but the USF Bulls came out flat in the second half of a 45-23 loss to Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium in a game of two Conference USA teams playing for a chance at the postseason.

USF stayed with the Bearcats for almost two quarters before Cincinnati racked up more total offensive yards against the Bulls than any other team had. Quarterback Gino Guidugli took over while USF quarterback Pat Julmiste was as ineffective as he has been as a Bull.

After he completed 75 percent of his passes last week against East Carolina, Julmiste was 14 of 32 for 143 yards, a big difference from the quarterback across the field.

Guidugli was near perfect, completing 30 of 36 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns.

“Bottom line, their offense was great,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “They came out and beat us in every aspect of the game. Take nothing away from Cincinnati.

“Their third-down efficiency is what made the difference in the game.”

Efficient describes the Bearcats’ offense in general. Cincinnati torched the Bulls for 577 yards in total offense.

As good as the Bearcats’ offense was, USF’s defense looked just as bad.

“Our defense didn’t put enough pressure on Gino and we suffered for it,” Leavitt said. “We did a poor job against the pass and coverage as well. Our coaching staff, as well as myself, take responsibility for that. We obviously did a poor job planning our execution to the quarterback.”

In the second quarter, USF defensive end Craig Kobel recovered a fumble in the end zone to tie the score 17-17. That was as close as the Bulls would get. Guidulgi threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Bill Poland before the end of the half, part of 28 straight Cincinnati points to put the game out of reach.

Andre Hall was the bright spot for the Bulls. A 46-yard run on USF’s first play of the game gave him the school record for rushing yards in a season. He surpassed Dyral McMillan’s mark of 1,017 yards. With two games to play, Hall has 1,138 yards. He is only USF’s second-ever 1,000 yard rusher.

After Hall rushed for 128 yards in the first quarter it seemed Cincinnati would have to focus on the USF rushing attack. But the Bulls took care of it for them. In the final three quarters, Hall only rushed the ball six times for 27 yards. His 155 yards rushing gave Hall his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season, also a record.

USF backup place kicker Justin Geisler opened scoring with a 44-yard field goal. Andre Hall scored in the first quarter with a 4-yard run. Freshman Jackie Chambers caught a 16-yard touchdown pass as time was winding down in the game.

With the loss, USF (4-5) has all but ruined its chances for a bowl game. The Bulls would need to win the next two games to be bowl eligible, which still wouldn’t guarantee the team a spot.

The Bearcats (6-4) have gained bowl eligibility with the win and have all but locked up a spot in a bowl game. Cincinnati closes out its season next week against C-USA leader Louisville.