Fans watching the Bulls’ football game against the University of Cincinnati Bearcats saw a 100-yard kick return, a blocked punt and two interceptions, all returned for touchdowns; four total turnovers and a 31-14 score.
Then the second quarter finally began.
“I had never played in a quarter like that in my whole career playing football,” said cornerback Mike Jenkins – who returned a kick for a touchdown in the quarter. “It was crazy. I looked up and told Carlton (Williams) ‘Man, are we going to halftime?'”
The first quarter of Saturday’s game lasted just over an hour and the teams combined for 45 points – more combined points than in seven other games this weekend.
“It was tiring, but we condition in the offseason so we’re prepared for it,” cornerback Trae Williams said. “When your mind is on the game, you really don’t feel the fatigue.”
Cincinnati’s 31 first-quarter points were a record for points allowed in a quarter by the Bulls. However, Cincinnati had a short field for most of the opening stanza – thanks in large part to four USF turnovers.
Scoring started quickly for the Bulls, and the crowd of 57,379 was energized from the opening drive of the game.
UC’s DeAngelo Smith returned the opening kickoff 52 yards to give the Bearcats the ball at the USF 38-yard line. But on the third play from scrimmage, Williams intercepted a pass from Ben Mauk and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown.
After the Bearcats answered back with a touchdown of their own, another senior cornerback made a big play.
Jenkins returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The touchdown was the longest play in Bulls’ history, and it gave the Bulls a 14-7 lead. For Jenkins, the kick return was his first of the season.
“The last time I returned a kickoff was in high school,” Jenkins said. “That was my first time getting back there in my college career. They (the coaching staff) called me into the office and asked me if I wanted to do it, and I told them to put me back there.”
After his teammate returned a kickoff the length of the field for a score, Williams thought that the Bulls had seized momentum of the game.
“I was thinking to myself that we were going to control the game,” Williams said. “I had a touchdown, and Mike (Jenkins) had a kick return, and I thought that that was how the game was going to be.”
Momentum shifted quickly, however. The Bearcats regained their composure and scored a field goal to make the game 14-10.
Then USF began to make mistakes, and Cincinnati began to capitalize. The Bearcats blocked a punt that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
From that point on, miscues seemed to doom the Bulls.
USF ended the first quarter with turnovers on each of their next three drives. Grothe had a pass intercepted at the UC
21-yard line, which was returned 79 yards to put the Bearcats up 24-10.
The next two drives saw fumbles by both running back Jamar Taylor and freshman wide receiver A.J. Love. Taylor’s fumble came at USF’s own
31-yard line, and UC capitalized for another score. The fumble by Love ended the Bulls’ drive just outside of the Bearcats’ red zone.
The first quarter of Saturday’s game was not lacking exciting or memorable plays.
Once the dust settled, the teams had combined for 45 points, four turnovers, four non-offensive touchdowns, and 290 yards of total offense.