Despite a record-breaking performance from freshman quarterback Byrum Brown, USF football fell short to Tulsa 48-42 at H.A. Stadium on Friday night.
Brown had a stellar showing in his first career start, finishing the game with 240 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and completing the first 21 of his 25 passes. His 84% pass completion rate broke former quarterback Quinton Flowers’ single-game record of 82.8% from the 2016 season.
Brown was also impactful on the ground, rushing for 76 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts.
While such a performance is hard to predict, interim coach Daniel Da Prato said it is a testament to the work Brown had put in since he arrived on campus.
“He carries himself so well on a daily basis, from preparation to his character to his composure, confidence,” Da Prato said. “He breeds that and he builds that up within himself from his preparation … [I am] very proud of the way he played today.”
As the newly minted starter, Brown helped lead the offense to a strong start in the opening quarter. On the Bulls’ (1-10, 0-7) second drive, the freshman quarterback made a 20-yard pass to junior tight end Chris Motillo to give USF a 10-0 lead. Tulsa (4-7, 2-5) would later respond with a touchdown at the end of the first quarter.
Momentum shifted in the second quarter when Tulsa recovered a muffed punt on the Bulls’ 22-yard line, setting up a score that would give them the lead and spark a 21-point scoring run. USF mustered some offense late in the quarter by way of an 18-yard touchdown pass caught by sophomore wide receiver Sean Atkins, but the Golden Hurricane ended the half up 31-20.
While Tulsa struck first out of the break, it was South Florida that went on a run in the third quarter, chipping away at the Golden Hurricane’s lead through a rushing touchdown from Brown and a 17-yard touchdown catch by junior tight end Jayson Littlejohn. Going for a two-point conversion helped cut the deficit to 38-35.
South Florida would keep the game close through the fourth quarter. Sophomore running back Brian Battie had 169 rushing yards and rushed for a 21-yard touchdown with just under three minutes left.
During Friday’s contest, Battie eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the season and became the sixth running back in program history to reach that mark in a season. Battie was proud to reach the milestone, but knew it would not have been possible without the trust his offensive line has in him.
“I’m just thankful that they trusted me to be their running back,” Battie said. “There’s a lot of times that they tell [Da Prato], ‘run the ball, run the ball, run the ball,’ and that just makes me feel good because that’s showing that they have some confidence in me as well. I’m just so thankful for them guys. I’m just thankful for the things that we have been able to achieve.”
South Florida finished with just under 500 yards of offense, but gave up 573 to Tulsa. What was most troubling was USF’s run defense, allowing the Golden Hurricane’s rushing attack to go for 271 rushing yards along with five touchdowns.
Another aspect of South Florida’s performance that hampered its comeback was penalties, with the Bulls getting seven for 62 yards during Friday’s game. Big gains that USF would have been able to make were dialed back due to holding or blocks from behind.
Now on a nine-game losing streak, USF prepares for the War on I-4 game against No. 17 UCF on Nov. 26. UCF has been a powerhouse in 2022 with a record of 8-2 and boasts top 25 rankings in defense and offense, making the Knights the Bulls’ greatest challenge of the season.
With the Knights joining the Big 12 next year, this will be the last rivalry game between the teams for the foreseeable future.
The final game of the season is scheduled for a 7 or 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Raymond James Stadium next Saturday. It will be broadcast on ESPN2 or ESPNU as well as BullsUnlimited.