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Takeaways: All-around poor performance for Bulls in loss to Green Wave

USF’s offensive line struggled to protect freshman quarterback Timmy McClain, who was sacked five times during the Bulls’ blowout loss to Tulane on Saturday. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

The Bulls came into New Orleans looking for their first road win in over two years, and with a one-win Tulane team as the opponent, that result seemed to be within reach.

Instead, USF got dominated by the Green Wave. Tulane scored on five consecutive drives before halftime and ultimately won the game 45-14. 

Here are five takeaways from the Bulls’ loss ahead of their final game of the season against UCF on Friday.

Struggling Tulane offense finds groove

Tulane had scored 12, 10 and 13 points, respectively, in its previous three games. Conversely, the Bulls allowed opponents to score an average of 35.4 points per game in its first 10 contests.

Something had to give, and the Green Wave offense took advantage. Tulane finished with 501 total yards and scored the most points it had since Week 2, a 69-20 win over Morgan State, an FCS opponent.

If the Bulls want to end the season on a high note against the Knights, a team averaging 33.55 points per game, it’ll take a better performance than what they showed against the Green Wave.

No good halves this week

It’s been a tale of two halves for USF in a number of its games this season. Against Florida, BYU and Cincinnati, the Bulls had poor performances to open the game but outscored their opponents in the second half. Against Tulsa, ECU and Houston, the Bulls had halftime leads that they saw evaporate before the final whistle.

That wasn’t the case against the Green Wave. Aside from an early touchdown from junior running back Kelley Joiner, it was a wire-to-wire victory for Tulane.

The Bulls, at the very least, had something to hang their hat on in six of their previous eight losses. Against Tulane, however, there weren’t many positives.

Offensive line struggles

USF’s offensive line, a veteran unit, has been a strength for the Bulls this season. The Green Wave brought plenty of pressure Sunday, however, registering five sacks and forcing freshman quarterback Timmy McClain to scramble multiple times.

“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,” coach Jeff 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 [our pass protection has] been one of the most consistent groups for us this year.

“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.”

Whatever the issue may be, the Bulls must figure it out before Friday’s matchup against UCF, which has 28 sacks on the season.

Battie, Joiner perform well

Although it wasn’t a good performance for many Bulls, running backs Brian Battie and Joiner gave USF something to be optimistic about.

Joiner led all USF rushers with 95 yards and also added a touchdown. Battie had 139 all-purpose yards with 21 being of the rushing category, 35 receiving and 83 on kickoff returns.

The Bulls will likely look to lean on both playmakers, in addition to junior running back Jaren Mangham, in the season finale.

Big plays ignite Green Wave

Before facing USF, Tulane seemed to have a lackluster offense, but multiple big plays helped the Green Wave defeat the Bulls.

Tulane logged six passing plays of over 28 yards and fives rushes of 15 yards or more. Second-year freshman quarterback Michael Pratt had career-highs in passing yards and touchdowns

So far this season USF has been giving up an average of 7.1 yards per play and 489 yards per game, which ranks 125th in all of Division I.