Defensive woes persist in Homecoming blowout loss to FAU

For the second week straight, the Bulls have allowed 56 points against intra-conference opponents. ORACLE PHOTO/ARIANA RENNICK

Once again plagued by poor defense and a stagnant offense, USF extended its Homecoming losing streak to four with a 56-14 loss to FAU on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.

USF (3-4, 2-2 AAC) has now been outscored 112-49 in its last two games, allowing 56 points for two straight weeks for the first time in program history. 

The Bulls dropped their second consecutive game as FAU (3-3, 2-0 AAC) picked up its first win over South Florida as members of the AAC. 

Bulls’ coach Alex Golesh expressed frustration in his team’s blowout loss.

“That was really, really poorly executed, certainly in every way imaginable,” Golesh said. 

Given its defensive regression over the past two weeks, he said the defense missed out on playmaking opportunities against the Owls. 

“I thought a week ago, schematically, we could have been more aggressive, certainly to force off-scheduled throws. Tonight… I feel like we were in a bunch of positions to go make plays,” Golesh said. 

After a three-and-out on the Bulls’ opening possession, the Owls marched down the field to score on a two-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Zeke Moore. Both teams then proceeded to trade turnovers while in opponent territory. 

The USF offense finally broke free in the second quarter after four consecutive scoreless drives. Junior wide receiver Sean Atkins scored a 76-yard touchdown reception that was reversed after a replay showed that he stepped out of bounds at the 50-yard line.

Senior running back Nay’Quan Wright ended up finishing the drive off with a nine-yard touchdown run. Wright ran for 106 yards on 15 carries, his second 100-yard game of the season.

With 12 seconds left in the half, USF lowered the deficit to a one-score game with a two-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Gunnar Greenwald, heading into the half 21-14.

The third quarter proved to be the Bulls’ downfall as FAU proceeded to score three unanswered touchdowns. Owls junior running back Michael Johnson Jr. scored a five-yard touchdown run on their first possession of the second half. 

While the Bulls offense would fail to pick up a single first down over their next two drives, the FAU offense was thriving. Owls junior wide receiver LaJohntay Wester scored two consecutive third quarter touchdowns, a 17-yard reception followed by a 67-yard punt return just minutes later. 

The dominance continued into the fourth quarter and USF was never able to recover. FAU would add on two more touchdowns, outscoring South Florida 35-0 in the second half. 

Much like their last game against UAB, the Bulls defense struggled heavily. Wester and sophomore wide receiver Tony Johnson picked apart the Bulls’ secondary, combining for 254 yards on 18 receptions. 

FAU junior quarterback Daniel Richardson completed 31 of his 38 pass attempts for 382 yards and three touchdowns. The Owls also ran for a combined 205 yards and four touchdowns, the third consecutive week the Bulls have given up over 200 yards rushing in a game. 

Junior defensive back Daquan Evans said that the struggling defense will make changes after allowing nearly 1,200 yards over the past two games.

“We just got to trust our process best, we got to do more as a team… really just trust in our process and changing up things going on,” Evans said. 

Offensive mistakes withered away opportunities to score in the first half. Junior wide receiver Jaden Alexis fumbled in the redzone on one of the first drives of the game, likely preventing another score. Bulls kicker John Cannon also missed a 49-yard field goal in the second quarter, which was his first miss of the season.

The offense went stagnant throughout the second half, failing to score. USF only converted three of their 15 third-down attempts as the offense struggled to sustain drives. 

“Really disappointed in how we played in all three facets tonight. And especially losing the way we lost there, it really stinks,” Golesh said. 

Next week, USF heads back on the road to take on UConn. The Huskies (1-5) are coming off a 38-31 win over Rice, in which they snapped a five-game losing streak. USF holds a 12-5 all-time record over UConn, the most wins over a single opponent in program history.

The two teams last faced off in 2019, with the Bulls winning 48-22. 

USF will take on UConn on Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m. at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. The game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network and Bulls Unlimited.