USF sinks Navy to snap 19-game road losing streak

Junior wide receiver Sean Atkins (38) bounced back from an early turnover to record a season-high 116 receiving yards and two touchdowns. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

The Bulls snapped a 19-game road losing streak by defeating Navy 44-30 on Saturday, marking their second consecutive win of the season.

Their last road victory came on Oct. 26, 2019, when they defeated East Carolina 45-20.

Bulls coach Alex Golesh collected his third victory at USF, just one win away from tying former coach Jeff Scott’s career win total from 2020-22. 

South Florida now sits in sole possession of first place in the conference. It also marks the first time USF has had a winning record since being 1-0 in 2020. 

Navy jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, fueled by an early turnover by junior wide receiver Sean Atkins. The Bulls followed up with 21 unanswered points, including an 88-yard touchdown pass to Atkins. 

Atkins caught four receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns in arguably his best receiving performance this season. 

He said he was glad he could make up for his fumble and that he got to experience the win with his teammates. 

“I’m excited to go experience it, it’s been a long time. I’m more happy for the guys that have stuck with the program with me. It’s really special,” Atkins said.

The passing attack was hitting on all cylinders for the second consecutive week as redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns. 

Brown has continued to show improvements in the passing game since the beginning of the season. Over the past two games, Brown has thrown for 773 yards and five touchdowns with only one turnover. 

With their offense flourishing, Brown attributed their back-to-back wins to offensive continuity.

We’re just collectively coming together as a team more and more each week,” Brown said. You’re seeing that every game, we’re able to get closer as a team.” 

USF’s defense bounced back after an inconsistent performance. The Bulls recorded four sacks and junior linebacker Logan Tramel ran a Navy fumble 70 yards for a Bulls touchdown – their first defensive touchdown of the season.  

Since racking up 14 penalties against Florida A&M on Sept. 9, cutting down on flags has been a priority for the Bulls.

After Golesh emphasized the importance of cutting back on penalties in a Tuesday press conference, the Bulls responded. Their one penalty this game is their fewest all season after being ranked amongst the most penalized teams in the FBS.

Golesh said the lack of penalties was due to increased discipline heading into a road environment. 

Despite the positive offensive performance, mistakes prevented the Bulls from capitalizing on their momentum. Two first-half turnovers led to Navy taking over in USF territory, ultimately resulting in two Midshipmen touchdowns. 

The USF defense covered for the Bulls’ offensive mistakes, racking up four sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Senior linebacker Jaylen Shuler ran back a muffed Navy PAT attempt for two points, the first time this has occurred in program history. 

I think it matters this week with our process being the way it needs to be, and then it means nothing next week. We got to get ready to be back on the road, but we’ll enjoy tonight,” Golesh said.