USF comes up short in heartbreaker against No. 24 Cincinnati

Senior Linebacker Dwayne Boyles led USF’s defense against Cincinnati on Saturday with 11 total tackles. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

South Florida football fell short 28-24 against No. 24 Cincinnati in Nippert Stadium on Saturday, marking a fourth straight loss for the season.

Despite USF (1-5, 0-2) starting fast in the first half, it was not enough to compete with the Bearcats (5-1, 2-0).

USF showed improvements in comparison to past games, especially when the game first started. The Bulls scored more in the first two drives against the Bearcats than they have in the first quarter all season.

Coach Jeff Scott described the decision to move with the ball early and often on as an aggressive decision.

“Coming into this environment, you can’t come in and tippy toe in. You have to come in attacking and swinging first,” Scott said.

Within the first five minutes, sophomore running back Brian Battie set up the momentum and ran for a 22-yard touchdown. Building off of that, freshman defensive back Aamaris Brown caught an underthrown pass and snagged a field goal at the end of the drive giving USF the lead at the end of the first quarter.

During the second quarter junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon threw a 33-yard pass to junior wide receiver Xavier Weaver, converting the third down. The momentum set Weaver up to score with a 9-yard touchdown pass.

The quarter ended with junior safety Matthew Hill catching his first interception of the season.

In the first half alone, USF converted five-out-of-seven third downs and had no penalties or turnovers. The discipline paid off and gave the Bulls a 17-14 lead going into the locker room.

Throughout the third quarter, the defense did its best to sustain the Bearcats. Sophomore linebacker Davon Hicks was able to make a tackle at the USF 12-yard line to create a turnover on downs over Cincinnati. Junior defensive end Jason Vaughn also sacked senior quarterback Ben Bryant at the Bull’s 28-yard line for a loss of 6 yards.

However, it didn’t stop Cincinnati from scoring two more touchdowns and holding USF to one.

Behind by four, USF had the opportunity to complete a touchdown drive with nine minutes left on the clock for the win. Nonetheless, South Florida choked after Battie rushed for a loss of 5 yards and was unable to convert a fourth down.

While the outcome was not ideal, Bohanon posted 121 passing yards and 117 rushing yards and Scott felt he managed the game well.

“He made a lot of good decisions and put us in a position where we had a chance there in the fourth quarter,” Scott said.

Scott said the end result didn’t benefit USF’s record by any means. The Bulls have now lost 15 straight games on the road. After Saturday’s loss, he got emotional when mentioning how proud he was of the perseverance of the team under the circumstances.

“I couldn’t be more proud of how hard our guys continue to fight,” Scott said. “And that right there is a foundation building block.”

The amount of adversity Scott said he’s seen this season is different than he witnessed before. In spite of having a large amount of injuries, close losses and the inability to finish against teams, he is optimistic the perseverance USF has faced will pay off in the end.

“At some point every storm runs out of rain,” he said. “At some point we’ll be able to finish those plays in some situations. Today unfortunately, we’re not good enough to get that done.”

USF will play Tulane at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 15 at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Bulls Unlimited and ESPNU.