Brut-al: Ducks 'dominate' Bulls, 56-21
Here's the game story from Tuesday's paper. More to come later ...
EL PASO, Texas – That’s what they do to Bulls out here, isn’t it?
All season, USF had the consolation of knowing its three losses had been by a combined 15 points, with chances late to win each game.
That made Monday’s Sun Bowl all the more stunning, as those same Bulls were handed their sombreros, historically crushed in a 56-21 loss to Oregon.
"They dominated. Just physically dominated the line of scrimmage," offensive coordinator Greg Gregory said. "It was total physical domination on both sides. … We didn’t play worth a … We played very poor football. We got outcoached."
No. 23 USF (9-4) allowed Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart to pile up a bowl-record 253 rushing yards. The Bulls handed the Ducks the ball five times with second-half turnovers, and in doing so gave away their national ranking and any momentum and they’d recovered with three late wins.
"We didn’t compete," defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. "I could tell in warm-ups that our kids were not going to play with the intensity they needed to play with. (Oregon) lined up and whipped our front seven physically all day long. … I’ve never been beaten that bad in a bowl."
A crowd of 49,867 saw a bowl featuring two teams that had peaked at No. 2 during the season; only one team bore any resemblance Monday. It’s one thing to say 56 points is the most ever allowed in USF's 11 years. It’s another to say it’s the most ever scored in the nation’s second-oldest bowl, or the third most lopsided bowl loss ever by a Big East team.
While Stewart couldn’t be stopped, USF never had a running game. Backs Mike Ford and Ben Williams had 10 yards on nine carries in the first half, and USF had 35 rushing yards entering the fourth quarter. Oregon finished with 353.
"They controlled our offensive line," coach Jim Leavitt said. "We knew early we weren’t going to be able to run the ball. They controlled the line of scrimmage. Why, I don’t know. … It’s not the end of the world. It feels kind of yucky-like right now."
Oregon (9-4) looked much like the team that rose to No. 2 nationally before losing Heisman candidate Dennis Dixon, which led to three straight losses. Redshirt freshman Justin Roper, making his first career start, threw for four touchdowns to match a Sun Bowl record. Stewart easily easily broke the Sun Bowl rushing record set in 1977 when LSU’s Charles Alexander rushed for 197.
"If we weren’t going to be able to stop him, we weren’t going to have a chance," Leavitt said. "We couldn’t run the ball and they did run the ball, and when you get down to it, that was a big thing in this game."
USF had the game tied 11-11 late in the first half when Stewart broke loose for a 71-yard touchdown. Down 18-14 at halftime, the wheels fell off for USF, when Oregon scored 28 points in less than seven minutes, thanks to three Bulls turnovers.
"Second half, I can’t explain what happened," Leavitt said. "We didn’t play good enough defense and that’s all there is to it. … We just didn’t get it done. That combined with the turnovers … you’re not going to have any shot at all."
The loss was USF's most lopsided since a 42-3 drubbing at Arkansas in 2002. This time, the Bulls had been favored and widely picked to win, with a national CBS audience tuning in.
"It wasn’t fun," said quarterback Matt Grothe, who left the game with a concussion in the fourth quarter. "It’s definitely disappointing. We’ve got a lot of returners (next year) for what we had a chance to do this year."
Late in the first half, USF had momentum, tying the game 11-11 after a highlight-reel touchdown from Grothe, who eluded a sack and found Taurus Johnson for the score. Those two would combine for three turnovers in the third quarter, helping Oregon rattle off 31 straight points to put the game away.
"Neither side played real well. … I don’t have the answer, and that doesn’t happen to me very much," Leavitt said. "Out of 120 games, there might be three or four times we’ve come out and done that. It’s very unusual for our guys to not play as well like that."