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USF loses to Miami, 49-21

During the bye week, USF coach Willie Taggart said “the Bay area was built for hurricanes,” and that the Bulls (0-4) were ready to take on No.15 Miami (4-0) live on ESPNU.

While USF managed to keep it interesting for the first two drives of the game, it wasn’t long before that “hurricane” broke down USF in the 49-21 loss for the Bulls – sweeping away fans in the process.

By the end of the third quarter with USF trailing 49-7, the crowd that was once split almost evenly with fans from the Bulls and ‘Canes turned to a stadium that was full of orange shirts and empty red seats.

That was the debris left from the Hurricanes’ performance.

Miami started things off in the first half with a 77-yard drive in just under three minutes for a touchdown. The Hurricanes wouldn’t slow down until the fourth quarter.

The drive featured what would be the theme for Miami’s offense for most of the game. Quarterback Stephen Morris opened up the drive with a 24-yard pass downfield, eventually leading to a big run by running back Duke Johnson, another Morris strike down field and Miami pounding it in for a short score.  

To the surprise of some, being 18.5 point underdogs, USF answered back with an impressive drive of its own, on a 75-yard drive in two minutes and 45-seconds for touchdown to tie things up. But USF wouldn’t find the end zone again until the fourth quarter.  

It was also sophomore Steven Bench’s first game of his career as an official starter and his first full game.

After debuting with a 17-yard strike to wide receiver Chris Dunkley, it was a 9-yard run by Bench before senior running back Marcus Shaw pounded the ball into the end zone.

Bench would finish his first quarter of play throwing just once – ending the half 2-for-5 in the air with an interception.

While Marcus Shaw stayed consistent, having his third consecutive 100-yard plus game with 131 yards total and a touchdown, Bench’s day could have gone better.

Being hit or having to scramble nearly every time he dropped back, getting sacked five times on the day, it was hard to find success through the air.

Apart from a fourth quarter drive that featured the bulk of his completed passes and eventually ended on a touchdown, as Miami clearly started to pump the breaks on their performance, Bench didn’t prove to be much of a factor in the game.

Shaw aside, Miami’s stingy defense and high-powered offense was consistent for the most part.

Morris, who eventually was replaced by backup Ryan Williams due to a possible concussion, finished his afternoon 11-of-16 in the air for two touchdowns on 222 yards.

Williams finished 8-of-14 with two touchdowns and an interception. Miami’s ground game contributed with three touchdowns of its own.

As for the Bulls, opportunities were created at crucial points. Capitalizing on them was the issue.

Senior middle linebacker DeDe Lattimore tallied his third and fourth career forced fumble in Saturday’s matchup on the goal line as Miami was about to score. Both were recovered by USF and both ended up in Miami’s favor.

On the drive after the first fumble recovery for USF, Bench was sacked in USF’s own end zone and fumbled, which was recovered by Miami for the touchdown.

After the second fumble, USF went three and out and ended up shanking a punt out of its own end zone that went two yards downfield. Fortunately for the Bulls, Miami missed the short field goal that followed.

The fourth quarter featured a Miami team that let USF off the hook to say the least. This was probably best embodied by the Hurricanes choosing to punt to USF instead of kicking a 30-yard field goal – something very rare to see a team do.

Though senior defensive end Julius Forte ran back his first career interception for his first career touchdown, minimizing the deficit, it was too little too late for the Bulls.

Hassan Childs also added to the defensive play with an interception of his own, making two for USF’s defense – the Bulls had two all last season.

After Bench’s touchdown late in the fourth, the game ended on a squib kick to run out the clock.

Taggart said that the main thing to work on leading into conference play against Cincinnati next weekend is consistency and having the players trust both themselves and his system.