Emotional father Joseph says Bulls were inspired
CINCINNATI -- With two sacks and a key pass breakup, senior linebacker Sabbath Joseph stepped up against a prolific Cincinnati offense on Friday night, but the highlight of his week came Tuesday, when he became a father with the birth of his daughter, Kalani.
That made it an emotional game for Joseph, who asked all his teammates to find someone special to dedicate the game to Friday.
"It meant a great deal," Joseph said. "This whole week has been a big experience for me. I told the guys 'We're not where we want to be as a team, but just come out here and if there's anything you play the game for, let it be tonight. Whether it be a grandma, an uncle, cousin, friend, anything that inspires you. Come out and give it your all. None of this would be possible without God, so lay it on the line with every breath he gives you."
Joseph made a key stop on fourth-and-1 when Cincinnati went for it late in the third quarter, and on the next play, the Bulls struck for a 71-yard touchdown from B.J. Daniels to Faron Hornes for a 15-point lead.
OTHER SIDE: For the third time in a key game this season, the Bulls cost themselves with a pivotal mistake in the final 90 seconds of the first half, though the Bearcats made their own mistake to limit the damage to USF's momentum.
The offense has struggled late in the first half, with B.J. Daniels throwing costly turnovers that led to touchdowns against Florida and West Virginia. On Friday night, it was the defense that made the mistake, allowing Cincinnati to not only convert a third-and-20 in the final minute, but complete a long pass to receiver Marcus Barnett that looked to be a 68-yard game-tying touchdown.
Barnett got a little flashy at the end and went to dive into the end zone, but in doing so, he stepped out at the 4-yard line. Given the chance to redeem itself with 1:20 left in the half, USF's defense came up with three stops, forcing the Bearcats to settle for a 22-yard field goal. As a result, the Bulls got to go into halftime with the confidence of having a 17-13 lead instead of the tie.
The long pass to Barnett finished a wild first half for Bearcats quarterback Zach Collaros, who threw for 223 yards on just 12 completions, including a touchdown pass to Armon Binns. Counting his second half against USF last season, Collaros accounted for 408 yards of total offense in a span of four quarters against the Bulls.
BEEN A WHILE: When USF took a 7-3 lead on Cincinnati early in the second quarter, it marked their first lead in Nippert Stadium since early in the 2004 game, a span that was three minutes short of three full games. The Bulls never led in losses to the Bearcats here in 2006 and 2008.
BACK DEEP: Redshirt freshman walk-on Jonny Sitton, who briefly had the punt return job in the season opener before losing a fumble, was back deep again Friday, returning Cincinnati's first punt 12 yards. With regular punt returner Terrence Mitchell attempting a switch from cornerback to receiver this week, the Bulls apparently wanted to let him focus on that and put Sitton, an Indian Rocks Christian graduate, in for the punt returns.
ROUGH START: Friday marked the much-anticipated offensive debut of freshman Terrence Mitchell, who made the move from cornerback to receiver to try to spark the offense. Mitchell made his debut in the third quarter, but it didn't go well -- running an end around, he fumbled the ball as he ran parallel to the line of scrimmage, recovering the ball but for a 6-yard loss.
RECORD DROUGHT: The offense did wake up for two touchdowns in the first half, but before doing so, they set a record for the longest drought without an offensive score in USF history -- 147 minutes and 43 seconds, breaking the previous mark of 132:56 set early in 2002.
THIS AND THAT: Senior tight end Kevin Gidrey, a transfer from East Carolina who has started six of seven games, got his first catch as a Bull in the second quarter, a 14-yard gain. ... Kicker Maikon Bonani, who connected on a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter, is now 6-for-7 on field goals since taking over for Eric Schwartz, who went 1-for-5 to start the season.