There was a point during its disappointing 13-9 loss to Syracuse on Homecoming that it looked as though USF would grind out a win despite its severe offensive woes.
However, when the Bulls’ defense, which had been dominant earlier in the game, surrendered a 14-play, 98-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter combined with continued struggles with special teams in the kicking game, USF had no reliable offensive threat for a comeback, as the unit was unable to find the end zone in its Big East opener.
Aside from getting in field-goal range for kicker Maikon Bonani’s 31-yarder early in the second quarter, the Bulls had trouble moving the ball and couldn’t capitalize on five trips inside the Orange 40-yard line.
“Offensively, you can’t score three points in a conference game and expect to win, especially with some of the positive field positions that were created by the defense and the special teams,” coach Skip Holtz said. “We’ve got to look at what we can do as an offensive football team – not just what we can do every once in a while, but what we can do from a consistency standpoint.”
Redshirt sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels, who was 9-of-23 passing for 124 yards, threw two interceptions and seemed to regress in the pocket like he had a month earlier against Florida, when he went 5-of-20 for 84 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions.
While the offense hasn’t had much success so far, Holtz remains committed to trying to make it work.
“We’re trying to build this offense around (Daniels),” he said. “We’re not trying to fit him into it. So it’s not trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. At some point in time, you’re going to have to throw the football in Division I college football if you want to win.”
On its first drive, USF moved the ball to the Syracuse 31-yard line before Daniels’ fade pass intended for senior wide receiver Dontavia Bogan was intercepted by cornerback DaMon Merkerson in the left corner of the end zone.
Another USF drive inside Syracuse territory in the third quarter ended with an interception when Daniels’ underthrown ball was snagged by Orange cornerback Jeremi Wilkes. The Bulls missed several opportunities with receivers open down the field.
“I really just try to stay with my keys and my reads,” Daniels said. “Sometimes guys (are) on the backside and those (are) the last people I look at it. It’s not like I can sit back there all day and just pick apart and just look everywhere.”
USF’s running game didn’t fare any better, gaining only 95 yards on 37 carries.