USF’s Third Loss Puts Season in Serious Jeopardy

For the second time in less than a week, USF fell to another Big East opponent on the road. The 24-10 loss to Cincinnati will surely drop the Bulls out of the Top 25, and as the Bulls’ schedule drags on, this season proves not so different from the last. In both 2007 and 2008 USF got off to a strong start. Then came those painful mid-season slumps that transformed high expectations into utter disappointment. Thursday’s defeat marked USF’s third loss in its last four games, bearing an eerie parallel to the three-game losing streak of 2007. Last year’s loss to Rutgers came on the heels of a flawless 6-0 start, putting a damper on the remainder of the season.

“It’s miserable. It’s almost like last year all over again,” center Jake Griffin told the St. Petersburg Times. “I hope the university never schedules another Thursday night game.”

In fact, last year is looking better than what this season is shaping up to be. In 2007, the Bulls climbed all the way to the second spot in the BCS poll, but this year USF’s highest rank stood at #16. Last year’s upsets over Auburn and West Virginia proved the Bulls could compete against big programs, but three unexpected losses this season to less formidable teams left fans to reconsider.

Much like last Saturday’s loss at Louisville, USF gave up big plays, failed to score in the red-zone and were laden with penalties, but the Bulls’ struggling offense proved to be the difference maker that separated a much-needed win from a season-toppling loss. On the eve of Halloween, Matt Grothe’s performance appropriately resembled a nightmare. He threw three interceptions and only passed for 174 yards, half of his last game’s total. Trailing by 14 in the third quarter, Grothe failed to get the Bulls into the end-zone twice, once from inside the 10-yard line and again from near the goal line.

“When we had the ball inside the ten [yard line], not to convert there two times, there’s no excuse for that,” head coach Jim Leavitt told The St. Petersburg Times. “We have got to score points there.”

The Bulls defense proved just as futile. They allowed Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike to throw for 281 yards and two touchdowns while completing 20 of 28 passes. Pike’s performance contributed a large part to his team’s 39-point outscoring of the Bulls in the last two meetings.

A tough and emotional loss, the game really harmed USF in the standings. The Bulls currently sit in seventh place in the Big East, just atop woeful Syracuse, a single-win team so far this season. If the upcoming schedule is any indication, the Bulls may very well maintain their depressing state. After a much-needed week off, the Bulls return home on November 15 to take on Rutgers, who fortunately for the Bulls, is struggling. UConn, another victor against USF, then comes to town before the season’s conclusion.

Considering the Bulls’ season wraps up in Morgantown against Big East power West Virginia – a team likely to win the conference title – will the Bulls see another win all season?

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