Breaking out of the Rut

Following a 20-day layoff, USF stormed out of the gate early against Rutgers and held on to win 45-31 Saturday at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, N.J.

The Bulls (4-3, 2-1) flexed their defensive muscle, forcing the Scarlet Knights (6-3, 3-2) into six turnovers that led to 28 USF points. USF picked up its first road Big East game win and snapped a two-game losing streak in the process.

The Bulls went back to their bread and butter against Rutgers, piling up 242 yards on 57 carries. Running back Andre Hall scored three touchdowns in the game.

Despite being down at one point by 21 points, the Scarlet Knights gave the Bulls a run for their money late. Leading 37-24 in late in the third quarter, the Bulls were in cruise control and looking to run out more of the clock.

On third and long, quarterback Pat Julmiste’s pass to Amarr Jackson was dropped, ending the drive and opening the door for Rutgers.

On the ensuing drive, Rutgers scored on a 4-yard touchdown pass to close the gap 37-31. USF then went three and out on the next drive and was forced to give the ball back to the Scarlet Knights with 1:07 left in the third. USF ended the Rutgers scoring threat when Richard Clebert forced a fumble recovered by Jon Simmons.

Despite having a short field, the Bulls couldn’t’ capitalize. Kyle Bronson’s 22-yard field goal was blocked giving the ball back to Rutgers with 6:40 remaining in the game. USF ended Rutgers final scoring chance when Mike Jenkins intercepted Mike Teel, who was in for injured Ryan Hart.

With four minutes left in the game the Bulls sealed it with a 1-yard touchdown run by Julmiste.

With this big conference win, the Bulls kept pace with first-place West Virginia (7-1, 4-0) for the Big East title and are in second place alone. If both teams win out, Dec. 3’s match up between the two teams would essentially be the Big East championship game and a BCS bowl bid would be on the line.

The Bulls need to win at least two of their final four games to become bowl eligible for the first time in school history. They travel to face struggling Syracuse (1-7, 0-5) on Saturday at the Carrier Dome. The following week, the Bulls face Cincinnati (4-4, 2-2) in their first home game since defeating the then No. 9 ranked Louisville Cardinals nearly two months ago.