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Bulls can’t score in fourth quarter

CINCINNATI, Ohio — When it mattered most, USF couldn’t get it done.

The Bulls gained 182 rushing yards Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bearcats — 174 yards more than in the 24-20 loss to Louisville — but couldn’t score when they had two opportunities near the goal line.

“When you get the ball inside the 10 (yard line) two times and not to convert two times, there’s no excuse for that,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “We just didn’t look very good the first or second time we were down there.”

USF trailed 24-10 late in the game and twice drove the ball inside the Cincinnati 10-yard line.

On the first drive, senior running back Ben Williams led USF to the Cincinnati two-yard line, but a false-start penalty pushed the Bulls back five yards. After two rushes by Williams netted only two yards, USF called two pass plays, and junior quarterback Matt Grothe threw two incompletions.

“We’ve got to cut away the penalties,” Williams said. “We had a great opportunity with the ball in the red zone, and (the penalty) took away a good opportunity to score.”

Running backs coach Carl Franks said he is happy with the improvement in the running game but disappointed with the fourth quarter.

“We’ve got to do a better job as coaches to get them some good plays, and they’ve got to execute them,” he said. “It works both ways.”

Later in the fourth quarter, Grothe overthrew a receiver in the end zone on the fourth down.

“We couldn’t do anything,” Grothe said. “They just outplayed us.”

The Bulls were playing with every member of the offensive line that started the season opener on Aug. 30. Sophomore guard Zach Hermann played for the first time in seven weeks after suffering a broken foot, and senior tackle Marc Dile — who missed time in practice during the week due to a foot injury — came into the game on USF’s second offensive possession.

Senior center Jake Griffin said rotating players into the offensive line didn’t throw the team out of sync.

“It’s not that difficult to roll in guys, because we do it during the week during practice,” he said. “We have continuity during practice.”

Franks said he’s proud of the way the offensive line played, but the Bulls needed to execute better when it mattered.

Griffin said he was upset with the offense’s performance near the goal line, adding that they were simply outplayed.

“I’m not sure what happened,” he said. “I can’t really put it into words.”