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Even after loss, USF can still contend for conference title

USF wide receiver Darnell Salomon participates in pregame warmups before the Bulls’ 57-36 loss against Houston on Oct. 27. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

HOUSTON — USF football fell to No. 17 Houston 57-36 at TDECU Stadium in Houston on Saturday. The Bulls’ loss ends their quest for an undefeated season, but does not end their quest for USF’s first conference championship in program history.

If USF (7-1, 3-1) wins out, it would win the AAC East, as no one team in the division would be undefeated and the Bulls would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against any team that they may finish the season tied with.

Coach Charlie Strong knows that his team’s goals are still there for the taking.

“You’ve just got to go play well against Tulane, you’ve got to go on the road against Cincinnati, then you’ve got to go on the road to Temple, then you’ve got to come back home to Central Florida,” Strong said. “The games are there for us. Now it’s just a matter of us going out to compete hard enough.”

Quarterback Blake Barnett echoed Strong’s sentiments, but added that he isn’t the only USF player who sees the bigger picture.

“I think pretty much the whole team in general knows … we still have our goals in front of us,” Barnett said. “We can’t let this setback push us even further back for the rest of the year. We have to come, we have to learn from it.”

After a slew of injuries at his position, freshman running back Johnny Ford has helped his team step up from the difficulties it has faced. After the Houston loss, Ford was confident the Bulls can rebound from this setback.

“My team is strong,” Ford said. “We all stand by one. We’ll go into practice and we’re going to come back hard and we’ll just show you next week and from here on out.”

For some on the USF roster, this isn’t the first time they’ve suffered a disappointing loss to Houston. The Bulls’ first loss of the 2017 season came from the Cougars on a last-minute touchdown.

Linebacker Greg Reaves was a member of that team and knows that, like last year, everything is still in place for the Bulls to make a run for a title.

“Definitely didn’t want to lose,” Reaves said. “It definitely hurt us a lot. But we know that everything is still ahead of us — all our goals.”

Everything that is still ahead for the Bulls starts with a home game against Tulane (3-5, 2-2) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.