OPINION: USF–Cincinnati takeaways

USF freshman Katravis Marsh made his first start against Cincinnati and threw three interceptions in the first half. Undoubtedly, USF’s search for a starter continues. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF is coming out of the conference opener with a lot to look at. 

From starting the game with three interceptions between the two teams to a revolving door of quarterbacks, it was, overall, a sloppy game with much more to it than the 28-7 final. 

“This is where we are, we can’t point fingers. It is what it is,” coach Jeff Scott said.

Still no starter in sight

If only USF could build its own starting quarterback, huh.

Switching between three quarterbacks felt like having no quarterback at all, and the order they were played was questionable. 

If one thing was made clear, USF still does not have a solid quarterback.

Freshman Katravis Marsh started at quarterback and on the first drive was intercepted by Cincinnati’s Coby Bryant. 

Cade Fortin appeared after Marsh and while the North Carolina transfer does have a solid arm, he threw for only 14 yards with two completions on six attempts. For unknown reasons, Noah Johnson did not make an appearance. 

Jordan McCloud was in for the majority of the second half, and while he did pass for more yards than the other quarterbacks with 137, he also lost 18 yards on four rushing attempts.

The Bulls are seeing that each quarterback has a specific strength — Marsh’s ability to throw, Fortin has vision, Johnson is fast and McCloud is accurate. But the Bulls cannot rely on switching between quarterbacks throughout the game, as it might cost them conference wins like this one. With a quarter of the season already behind USF, the Bulls need to lock down a starter who will be consistent or they’ll continue to have a troubled season. 

A game of hot potato 

There were so many turnovers between the Bearcats and Bulls that it looked like they were playing hot potato.

As Marsh took the field for his first career start, his second play of the first drive was intercepted by Bryant at USF’s 46-yard line, making it a 36-second drive. 

The Cincinnati offense might have looked promising when quarterback Desmond Ridder passed the ball to Michael Young on third-and-5 to the Bulls’ 36-yard line for a first down. But on the next play, Ridder was intercepted by USF safety Mac Harris. 

USF’s Kelley Joiner then rushed for 4 yards. But on second-and-6, Marsh’s ball was again picked off, this time by Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner, making three turnovers in a matter of three minutes to start the game. 

It didn’t stop there. 

There were a total of nine turnovers between the teams — USF with five and the Bearcats owning four.

“We came into this game, knowing that we needed to take some shots down the field. What we need to improve the most is throwing the ball downfield and the timing,” Scott said.   

Whether it is struggling to find someone quick enough or receivers getting open, the Bulls need to work on pushing the ball down the field on vertical routes outside the numbers.

“We’ve got multiple guys out there, got multiple receivers out there running around doing different things and it’s going to take some time,” Scott said.

Defense a silver lining

There were 12 players unavailable for the game and eight of them were defensive players. The silver lining is that the guys who filled in did a decent job. 

A few freshmen also found a way to contribute — cornerback Chris Townsel made a game-changing interception and Harris had eight total tackles. 

The USF defense was able to hold Cincinnati to 332 yards. When it came down to stopping Ridder, they held him to 132 passing yards and picked off three of his throws. 

The first half was largely carried by USF’s defense but still was not enough to come close to preventing Cincinnati’s 21-point win. 

Nobody is perfect, but the defense showed promise and resiliency.