By now, the script should be familiar; USF opens the season unranked but with expectations of being a dark horse conference champion, gets a few wins early, then bottoms out when Big East play begins.
Saturday’s 16-10 road loss to Connecticut only strengthened the idea that USF is unready to compete for a conference title.
For the fourth time in five seasons, the Bulls began the season with at least four consecutive wins. Now, they sit at 4-2 overall, and 0-2 in the Big East, following losses to Pittsburgh and UConn.
USF’s loss Saturday was its third straight to the Huskies (3-4, 1-1). It also dropped the Bulls to 0-4 all-time at East Hartford’s Rentschler Field.
Against Pittsburgh, the defense yielded 523 yards of offense, prompting the Bulls to spend their bye week working on team defense and tackling. The results were positive, with UConn only recording 253 total yards and turning the ball over twice. The Huskies did not record an offensive touchdown in the game.
Instead, it was the offense that got in USF’s way Saturday. The Bulls were well balanced, gaining 175 yards on the ground and 164 yards through the air, but they also turned the ball over four times and struggled on third downs.
“We made too many mistakes to win a close football game,” USF coach Skip Holtz told The Tampa Tribune. “We had our opportunities. We just couldn’t make the most of it.”
Redshirt sophomore defensive end Ryne Giddins had the best game of his USF career so far, tallying 11 tackles and forcing a fumble. He also had two sacks, contributing to USF’s seven in total, which tied a school record. Junior linebacker Sam Barrington added 1.5 sacks.
Redshirt junior quarterback B.J. Daniels was 15-for-27 in the game, also contributing 64 yards on the ground on 10 carries. His 22-yard touchdown dash to cap USF’s first drive of the second half was a quintessential B.J. Daniels’ play, faking a handoff and dropping back to pass before scrambling and evading defenders on his way into the end zone.
Unfortunately for USF, Daniels’ two interceptions were also along the lines of what’s come to be expected from him. Though he’s had a strong season so far, he entered this season with 22 career interceptions, compared to 25 career touchdowns. He also wasn’t alone in turning the ball over.
With USF clinging to a 10-9 lead in the third quarter, USF running back Darrell Scott fumbled the ball deep in USF territory, allowing Huskies’ safety Byron Jones to scoop the ball and score the eventual game-winning touchdown with 7:06 remaining in the quarter.
The Bulls still had a chance to put together a comeback victory when they got the ball for the final time on their own 10-yard line with 7:32 remaining in the game. USF drove 66 yards, but came up short by four yards on a fourth-and-seven pass play at the UConn 27-yard line, turning the ball over and sealing the loss.
With the loss, USF now looks to its homecoming game against Cincinnati on Saturday for its first Big East win of the season. It will be USF’s first home game since Sept. 24.