South Florida football lost to Houston 42-27 in sophomore quarterback Katravis Marsh’s first start of the season on Saturday at TDECU Stadium.
Marsh was named the starter after junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Oct. 16 Tulane game. Coach Jeff Scott gave credit to his new starter’s performance and expects him to improve next week against Temple.
“Overall, I feel like he managed the game pretty well for his first time,” Scott said. “Most improvement in the quarterback position is typically from the first game as a starter to that second game so I expect to see him build off of this performance and continue to improve next week and as we move forward.”
Against the Cougars (5-3, 3-1) Marsh completed 25 of his 34 passes, had one passing touchdown and 275 yards passing yards. He also had 20 rushing yards in seven attempts for the Bulls (1-7, 0-4)
Despite the final result, the Bulls matched Houston drive for drive in the first quarter. After falling behind early, South Florida responded with strong rushing performances.
Sophomore running back Brian Battie had 87 of his 106 rushing yards in the first quarter. Around the five-minute mark, Battie scored on a 20-yard rush to give USF a 14-7 lead, but Houston was able to tie going into the second quarter.
The Bulls could not replicate their strong production in the second quarter. Their rushing attack was not as present as it was in the opening quarter. USF went scoreless and only had 12 rushing yards in the second quarter compared to 101 yards in the first.
Houston also had its way with the Bulls’ defense in the second quarter. A Cougars 52-yard touchdown over the middle broke the game open to extend their lead to 28-14 at halftime.
Going into the second half, the Bulls came out and set a more competitive tone. After stopping Houston on their opening drive, Marsh scrambled for 24 yards and completed a 19-yard pass to junior wide receiver Xavier Weaver, putting the Bulls on Houston’s 40-yard line. Scott was proud of the Bulls’ resilient start to the third quarter.
“I’m most proud of the guys for starting off the third quarter. We talked about it in the locker room. ‘We get to stop on defense, the offense goes down and scores make it a one-score game and you are right back in it.’ We did that defensively and offensively,” Scott said.
With momentum on their side, a penalty moved the Bulls to the 1-yard line, allowing junior running back Michel Dukes to rush for a touchdown and put them one score behind the Cougars, 28-21. This momentum did not carry over defensively as Houston quickly brought its lead back to two touchdowns.
Any real hope of a comeback was diminished early in the fourth quarter as Houston’s opening drive ended in a touchdown, increasing the deficit to 42-21. USF was able to score toward the end of the game when Marsh found junior tight end Chris Carter for a 2-yard pass.
Defending the pass was a struggle throughout the game for South Florida. The Bulls did not have a single sack in the game and struggled against Houston’s offensive line.
Houston quarterback Clayton Dune had 380 passing yards and four touchdowns. Dune added himself to the list of AAC quarterbacks the Bulls have struggled to contain this year.
Questionable play-calling on the Bulls’ end also cost them the game. Early in the second quarter, USF failed to convert on third down, 5 yards away from the first down marker. Instead of going for it on fourth, USF went for a field goal on the 31-yard line and missed it.
This play changed the flow of the game as Houston scored and pulled away shortly after. Scott explained his reasoning behind the play call.
“Had I known that we missed the field goal and known that they were going to continue to score, probably looking back on it? I wish I would have gone forward there because it was a touchdown kind of game,” Scott said. “At the end of the day, we just were not able to execute well enough to keep up with [Houston’s] high-scoring offense.”
USF heads to Philadelphia to play Temple at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 5. Kickoff is timed for 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Bulls Unlimited and ESPN+.