USF can’t keep up in conference-opening loss to ECU

Junior wide receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. posted 180 game-leading receiving yards against ECU. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Hurricane Ian altered USF’s plans for its conference opener against ECU on Saturday, but it didn’t affect its losing streak.

The Bulls (1-4, 0-1) fell 48-28 at Howard Schnellenberger Field in Boca Raton due to a slow start and poor coaching, according to coach Jeff Scott.

Unable to play at Raymond James, Scott said the team was welcomed with kindness as they were able to practice in Fort Lauderdale this week.

“We do appreciate their hospitality down here,” Scott said. “I just wish we would have played better to finish off the week the right way.”

It is not new to see USF beginning the game slowly. Out of all four games this season, USF has yet to be in the lead at the end of the first half.

Scott said there’s a missing piece preventing the Bulls from connecting to make plays during the first two quarters.

“We’re not coming here just to try to play better in the second half,” he said. “We’re coming in to win games, and we got to get the first half fixed.”

During the first quarter, USF had a total of 73 yards while the Pirates (3-2, 1-0) had a head start of 175.

Junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon was two yards shy of the first touchdown when senior inside linebacker Xavier Smith forced a fumble and recovered the ball for the Pirates which led to a 74-yard touchdown pass for ECU.

USF’s only touchdown in the first half was in the second quarter after a two-play drive when Bohanon threw a 91-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Jimmy Horn Jr.

However, it was no match for the Pirates as they scored four touchdowns in six possessions making the score 41-7 going into halftime.

Something clicked for South Florida going into the second half. During the third quarter, USF scored three touchdowns and held the Pirates to one, pushing the score to 48-28.

Bohanon began the fourth quarter with a rushing touchdown. Maximizing their momentum, senior linebacker Dwayne Boyles forced a fumble at the ECU 35-yard line, recovering the ball for USF.

Working to make a play happen, junior running back Michel Dukes was two yards short of a touchdown. The Bulls had an opportunity to make it a two-possession game, but Horn failed to convert on fourth down.

Defensively, the Bulls put up 67 total tackles, seven of which were for a loss of 21 yards. However they still gave 110 yards to ECU. The poor defensive performance was due to the lack of depth in the cornerback room and the miscommunication between coaches and the field, according to Scott.

“There were times where we didn’t have guys in position and that’s coaching,” he said. “We [have] to do a better job.”

The bottom line is, the Bulls are not executing, Scott said. While they did better in the second half, it was still not enough to bring in a conference game win.

Scott said he is taking the blame for the loss. Fixing the team’s performance begins with the coaching staff, he said, and how they can put their players in a better position for upcoming games.

“I can say there’s nobody more disappointed than I am,” Scott said. “This coaching staff and these players come back to work every day, but at the end of the day, we’re the ones that have to get fixed.”

USF will head to Cincinnati to face the Bearcats on Oct. 8 at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Bulls Unlimited.