Turnovers prove costly for Bulls

The Bulls nearly knocked off a nationally ranked Big East opponent Friday to open up conference play.

Unlike USF’s first four games, when it failed to go into the locker room at halftime with a lead, the Bulls were up 14-10 after the first half. However, three second-half turnovers and a dropped two-point conversion led to a 22-20 win by No. 24 Rutgers.

“Too many turnovers, too many mistakes,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “You can’t beat a nationally ranked team if you have that many mistakes.”

Trailing 22-14 with less than three minutes left in the game, senior linebacker Stephen Nicholas blocked a field-goal attempt, giving the Bulls’ offense a chance for the comeback.

Quarterback Matt Grothe led USF on a 66-yard drive and connected with senior wide receiver Ean Randolph for a touchdown to put the Bulls within two points with just 15 seconds left. However, a dropped pass by Amp Hill on the two-point conversion ended USF’s hopes of another come-from-behind win.

“It hurt, but people make mistakes,” said Amarri Jackson, who had a game-high 83 receiving yards. “We have high standards for ourselves. We feel like if it touches our hands, we need to catch it.”

After the late touchdown, junior Mike Jenkins appeared to have gotten the ball back for USF after he recovered an onside kick, but an official review showed Jenkins catching the ball before it traveled the necessary 10 yards.

“I thought I pretty much had it,” Jenkins said. “And (after) I looked at the replay, I still thought I had it.”

Grothe also said he thought Jenkins caught the ball after it traveled 10 yards, but even if the Bulls had been awarded possession, they would’ve only had 15 seconds to score.

“Who knows if we would’ve scored?” Grothe said.

USF may not have had to attempt a late comeback if it wasn’t for Grothe’s two second-half interceptions and a lost fumble.

Grothe’s first interception came on the Bulls’ first possession of the second half when they still had the lead. Grothe also gave up a fumble with less than five minutes remaining in the game.

“Turnovers are what killed us,” said Grothe, who passed for 241 yards and rushed for two touchdowns. “Every single turnover we had led to some of their points.”