USF Continues to Win Ugly

The Bulls took home a 17-9 win over the Golden Panthers, who despite being an inferior opponent, kept the Bulls on a short leash.

The game marked the first time in USF history that the Bulls entered a contest as a four-touchdown favorite over a Division 1 opponent, but sloppy offensive play rendered the win far from pre-game expectations.

Coming off a pair of tense wins against UCF and Kansas, head coach Jim Leavitt did his best to keep his team focused while assuring his players and the media that the match against FIU was not to be taken lightly.

“If people really know football, they will understand that [it] is really going to come down to the end of the game. Emotions will be high, and it’s going to be that tight of a game,” Leavitt told The Tampa Tribune Saturday morning.

He could not have been more correct, and the win itself was ugly, even though it handed FIU its 26th loss in its last 27 games.

USF’s troubles on offense started early in the first quarter, as the Bulls fumbled three times on the first two possessions, but fortunately they only turned the ball over once. Mike Ford later scored on a two-yard run to give the Bulls a 7-0 lead and Maikon Bonani added a field goal to end the first quarter.

USF continued to drive the length of the field threatening to score twice, but dismal offense inside the red zone forced the Bulls to try another shot at three points. They came away with nothing, as Bonani’s 21-yard attempt was blocked.

For everything that the Bulls offense wasn’t, the defense was just the opposite. Heavy pressure from the defensive line continuously stuffed the run, holding FIU to just 40 total yards in the first half. But injuries to key defensive players Brouce Mompremier and George Selvie in the second half proved to be crucial.

After Mike Ford appeared to put the game away in the fourth quarter with a one-yard run in the endzone, FIU got a safety that cut the lead to 17-2. Running back Julian Reams then brought the Golden Panthers to within a touchdown after a 3-yard sprint across the goal line, which was FIU’s first offensive touchdown of the season. USF ended any effort of a last-minute comeback though by recovering the ensuing on-side kick.

“We got the win, but we should’ve played better,” Matt Grothe told the Associated Press.

Should have, and desperately need to. USF joins UConn as the only other undefeated team in the Big East, but the Bulls’ national championship hopes might end a little earlier than expected if the last three games are any indication. With a tough game at NC State this week and Big East play starting up after that, the Bulls have a lot of work to do if they want to remain in the polls.


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