OPINION: USF vs. Cincinnati Takeaways

CINCINNATI — USF football fell 35-23 to the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.

After back-to-back losses to Houston and Tulane, with the Tulane game not even being close, a third-straight loss was expected. Yet, somehow, this result still stung.

Perhaps it was USF taking a lead into the half, then being outscored 21-7 during the second half. Perhaps it was the optimism that came with a different look at starting quarterback — Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean tag-teamed in place of an injured Blake Barnett. Perhaps it was just the biting cold of a 28-degree kickoff.

No matter what the reason, here are some takeaways from Saturday’s visit to southern Ohio.

It’s good to have Mitch back

After missing last week’s game against Tulane, tight end Mitchell Wilcox returned to action against Cincinnati and made a noticeable impact. The junior caught seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.

Wilcox was missed last week, with the Bulls unable to get anything going offensively — especially through the air — until garbage time.

During Saturday’s game, Wilcox set new two USF program records — career receiving yards by a tight end and the most receptions in a season by a tight end.

Wilcox, records or not, is a game-changing tight end and if USF is going to have any shot at winning another game this season, it will need a healthy and productive Wilcox.

Did Oladokun and Kean actually offer USF more on offense than Barnett?

It feels silly to even ask the question, but did a tag-team of the two quarterbacks offer USF a wider playbook to choose from?

Barnett is good, there’s no question about it. You don’t get named starting QB at Alabama — nor USF, for that matter — if you’re not talented.

But Barnett has only been with the program since May. There’s no way that he has mastered USF’s playbook as much as Oladokun and Kean, who have been with the Bulls for several years.

Additionally, with Barnett’s status not publicly in question until warm ups began Saturday evening, Cincinnati was likely caught by surprise after a week spent preparing for the graduate transfer.

If Barnett can’t go again next week at Temple, the tag-team may not be the worst thing in the world.

That’ll do it, folks

Saturday’s loss officially eliminates USF from any shot at winning the AAC East. After starting the season 7-0, this is a pretty disappointing way for things to end.

The Bulls weren’t projected to win the AAC East this year given the losses they suffered — Quinton Flowers and Auggie Sanchez, to name a few — coupled with the rise of UCF. But, still, another great start to a season that doesn’t end in at least a shot at a title stings quite a bit.

The cold never bothered me anyway

USF began its pregame warmups with its players bare-chested.

In sub-30 degree weather, mind you.

“Coach said that on Sunday, I believe,” Oladokun said. “He told us, ‘We’re coming out with our shirts off to set the tone.’”

It makes sense. If you’re fine shirtless in the freezing cold, once you get padded up and throw a jersey on top, you may even feel if you’re back in the Florida heat.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme.

But so was the cold. Although the Bulls didn’t feel that way.

“You talk about the weather all week and we knew how cold it was going to be,” Oladokun said. “Mentally, that wasn’t a block for us at all.”

As one Disney princess once said, “The cold never bothered me anyway.”