USF got some deja vu on Saturday in its close loss to yet another ranked team.
The Bulls led the game against No. 24 Cincinnati 17-14 at halftime, but ultimately lost 28-24. This was similar to their 31-28 matchup against then-No. 18 Florida on Sept. 17.
Despite the lengthening injury reports and discouraged performances against East Carolina and Louisville, improvements showed for the Bulls (1-5, 0-2) while facing the Bearcats (5-1, 2-0).
Here is how the Bulls shaped up against the Bearcats.
Bohanon’s legs carry the Bulls
Junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon reused the offensive strategy against the Gators, running the ball and feeding it to sophomore running back Brian Battie.
Bohanon tagged on 117 rushing yards, 121 passing yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati, along with Battie putting up 82 rushing yards and a touchdown.
The two worked well together to put the Bulls in a good position to compete against one of their more difficult counterparts in the AAC. Not only is the team ranked overall, but they also carry the No. 21 spot for the best defense in college football.
Coach Jeff Scott was pleased with the momentum Bohanon produced during the game to put the team in a better position.
“I felt like overall, Gerry managed the game really well and made a lot of good decisions. Ran for over 100 yards again, and put us in a position where we had a chance,” he said.
Starting off strong
Unlike its past trials, USF led the first half 17-14 against the Bearcats. The Bulls typically gain their momentum after halftime.
With the help of junior wide receiver Xavier Weaver, kicker Spencer Shrader and Battie, South Florida stayed steady and vigilant against a mighty opponent.
Excluding their game against the Bearcats and Howard on Sept. 10, the Bulls have struggled in the first half in four of six games this season. Scott was happy to see that the team was able to overcome this repeated problem.
“I thought we did a lot of things really well. We knew that it was gonna have to be a ball control kind of game. Felt like we did a good job with that in the first half,” Scott said.
An organized defense
Offensive coordinator Travis Trickett’s main point in a conference on Wednesday included the growing strength of the Cincinnati defense. However, the Bulls remained even keel to press against their opponent.
South Florida racked up 63 tackles against the Bearcats along with two sacks and two interceptions.
As the defense prepared the team for a steady game, Scott felt they played a key role in their success.
“Our guys came out and we talked about swinging first and we decided to take the ball. A great defense on the road and talked about going down to score,” Scott said.
“We did that in the first play on defense, got an interception. Went down and got to feel gold right after that, and got the start that we wanted.”
Coming up short
USF officially has a running track record of showing stellar performances cut short by top 25 teams.
Although USF controlled the game, small mistakes are what led to the devastating loss, including the 35-second scoring drive that secured the Bearcat’s 28-24 victory.
Just like the Florida game, Scott described this game as a what-could-have-been moment if it weren’t for the small mistakes and hiccups.
“I really look at it as we played our game plan pretty well. There are about two drives on offense and two drives on defense that if we could continue doing really good things we could have won the game,” Scott said. “All I can tell the guys is go back and watch the video, learn and improve.”