Green Wave crushes Bulls 45-14

Sophomore defensive back Christian Williams (4) secured his second interception in as many games, as he picked off Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder last week and Tulane’s Michael Pratt on Saturday. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

Junior running back Kelley Joiner handled the pitch from freshman quarterback Timmy McClain, took the ball up field, made a man miss and scampered into the end zone for a 24-yard score to give USF an early lead less than three minutes into the game.

Then everything started to unravel for the Bulls in their 45-14 loss to Tulane on Saturday. The Green Wave responded to Joiner’s score with five consecutive touchdown drives before halftime, hitting on what seemed to be a flurry of big plays.

Redshirt freshman running back Tyjae Spears tied the game with a 69-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and second-year freshman quarterback Michael Pratt connected on a pair of long touchdown passes for 30 and 48 yard, respectively. Before the Bulls could blink, they were down 35-7 heading into the break.

Tulane’s offense, a unit that hadn’t scored more than 13 points in its last three games, finished with 501 total yards on 8.5 yards per play.

“There was a combination [of reasons why the defense struggled],” coach Jeff Scott said. “Guys [were] open where we didn’t have anybody around, and then when we did have guys around, their guys made the plays … We were in position on a few of those [plays], but give their guys credit, they made the play.

“We’ve got to coach our guys [better] and they have to play better in those situations to not let that happen.”

While Pratt and the rest of the Tulane offense was dissecting USF’s defense and scoring at virtual will, the Bulls struggled to get much going themselves with the ball in their possession.

McClain looked off as he sailed a few passes over his receivers’ hands in the first half, the offensive line allowed five sacks and the Green Wave registered eight tackles for loss.

“I felt like we were getting beat up front early on in some pass protection issues, [a problem] that we really haven’t seen all year,” Scott said. “So, I really want to go back and see what exactly they were doing and what was causing issues, because we feel like that’s been one of the most consistent groups for us this year, was our pass protection.

“When they started getting back there and getting so much pressure on Timmy, it kind of takes him a little out of his game and he starts kind of forcing things. Ultimately, we didn’t play well enough at any position, offensively or defensively, to win the game.”

Tulane’s brand of man-to-man defense also seemed to really give USF’s wide receivers fits. Even on plays where McClain had time in the pocket and went through his progressions, or scrambled and bought more time, it looked as if no one was getting open downfield.

McClain was taken out with the game all but decided toward the end of the third quarter. Sophomore Cade Fortin stepped in and rushed for a 9-yard touchdown with 5:37 left.

The Bulls came into Saturday’s game looking to finally break through and secure a road win for the first time since Oct. 26, 2019, a 45-20 victory over East Carolina.

Scott said it’s up to his team to fix what went wrong and finish the season on a high note against UCF.

“At the end of the day, we’ve shown a lot of progress up to this point,” Scott said. “Really, today’s the first game since the NC State game where we really let a game get completely away from us. At the end of the day, you can’t throw everything away. We’ve got a short week, we get three practices in five days and you’ve got to go play.

“I think for us, [we’re] going to find out what was on film, because that’ll be on film for them to look at next week, and find out what we need to do to get that corrected, and then get everybody rallied up to go play our best for the last game of the season.”

The Bulls finish their season against UCF on Friday at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN and broadcast on 95.3/6220 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.