USF Season Can’t Escape Tailspin

With a 49-16 pounding of USF on Saturday, surging Rutgers came one step closer to clinching a bowl berth, as the Scarlet Knights evened their record at 5-5. While Rutgers is beginning to gain momentum late in the season, USF finds itself in a downward spiral that is rapidly spinning out of control.

“It’s obvious we didn’t play very well,” USF head coach Jim Leavitt said. “Our football team is certainly down right now, about as down as you can get.”

Leavitt’s words, while referring to the loss, are a more appropriate summation of the Bulls’ season. The game’s result handed the Bulls their third consecutive loss, and the team’s fourth out of its previous five games. The Scarlet Knights’ 49 points also set a pair of records that the Bulls would like to forget: the touchdowns accounted for the most points allowed by the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium and the 33-point margin of defeat proved enough for the worst home-loss in school history.

Rutgers, on the other hand, extended the Big East’s longest current winning streak to four games, including Saturday’s win which was the third consecutive victory over USF. Quarterback Mike Teel is a large part of the team’s recent success. Against the Bulls, Teel threw for 294 yards and three touchdown passes, while also running from two yards out for an additional score.

Unlike its opponent, USF’s performance resembled more of the same of what fans seemingly witness on a weekly basis: failing to score inside the red-zone, costly penalties, missed scoring chances and harmful turnovers. In the first half, USF managed to keep up with Rutgers’ relentless attack, bringing the game to within four points in the second quarter. But as play resumed after halftime, both the offense and defense seemed to implode.

“We got our tails whipped in the second half. We couldn’t do anything,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “We played well the first half, then all of a sudden we couldn’t respond.”

In total, USF turned the ball over six times on offense, while the defense gave up 28 points in the second half after holding Rutgers scoreless in the first quarter.

“[The way we played] is disrespectful. The coaches did a great job, but we just didn’t do what we were supposed to do. This loss is all on the players,” linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said.

As a result of the loss, USF will finish the season with its first sub .500 conference record since joining the Big East. Despite USF’s deficiencies, coach Jim Leavitt attests that the Bulls will bounce back. In order to do that, the Bulls have to revert back to the formula that jumpstarted their success back in August.

“We got off to a great 5-0 start this season, but injuries and a lack of continuity have really hurt us a lot,” Leavitt said. “This is not the same team we were the first five games.”


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