Leavitt says Bulls lost momentum

After losing for two weeks in a row to Kansas and Rutgers by a combined eight points, USF bounced back in the following two weeks, beating Connecticut and North Carolina by 39 points.

For coach Jim Leavitt, the wins against the Huskies and the Tar Heels were supposed to be the start of a run for the Bulls to win out their final five games of the season – but Cincinnati put an end to that thought with its 23-6 win against USF on Sunday night.

“I think what we had was some momentum,” Leavitt said Tuesday after practice. “The way we beat Connecticut and then going to North Carolina beating an ACC team – we had some momentum going.

“To go up there to Cincinnati and lose when you’re still in a Big East race – you’re still in a Big East championship race if you win the rest of them – so that ended that goal.”

With two conference losses, the Bulls are in fifth place in the Big East. Although they’re still mathematically in the hunt for the conference championship, No. 4 West Virginia, No. 6 Louisville and No. 16 Rutgers would each have to lose three games, while USF would have to win its final four games.

The chance of that occurring is unlikely, as the Mountaineers, Cardinals and Scarlet Knights have a combined record of 21-0.

“It’d be a miracle,” Leavitt said. “But we still have other things to try to battle for – positioning in the Big East, and there’s a bowl game (possibility) out there still.”

Quarterback struggles: Matt Grothe’s numbers in the loss to the Bearcats – 11-of-21 with an interception and 47 passing yards – weren’t as good as his average stats.

Although Grothe gave up a fumble for the second straight week, Leavitt hasn’t lost confidence in his freshman quarterback.

“Matt’s done a real good job,” Leavitt said. “I don’t praise him like other people might praise him when he does great, but I also don’t rip his behind like other people might rip his behind when he doesn’t play great.”

Nothing too serious: Several players were shaken up in the game Sunday, including Grothe, whose night ended early after cutting his nose while rushing for 9 yards early in the fourth quarter.

On the Bulls’ next drive, wide receiver Taurus Johnson was hit trying to make a catch, and he lay on the field for several minutes before eventually walking off. Then, with less than two minutes to play, wide receiver S.J. Green limped off the field after catching a fourth-and-9 pass.

With a bye this week, the players have an extra week to recover, and Leavitt said none of the injured Bulls are expected to miss playing time.

Another strong finish: Golfer Tyler Hitchcock earned second place this week at the 49er Collegiate Classic in Charlotte, N.C. Hitchcock finished the three-round tournament at 1-under par for his third consecutive second-place finish this season.