Flags just part of CB Murphy's long night
TAMPA -- On a night where USF's pass defense was sure to be tested, senior cornerback Jerome Murphy struggled in Thursday's 34-17 loss to No. 8 Cincinnati, giving up plays and making poor decisions that led to ill-timed penalties.
"Murphy had some penalties in there ... I was disappointed by a couple of pretty bad penalties there," coach Jim Leavitt said. "Murph didn't play as good a game as I know he would have liked, but I didn't coach good enough, our offensive and defensive staff didn't coach good enough, and our players didn't play good enough. You lose, everybody takes part of this."
Murphy, who led the Bulls with eight tackles and four passes broken up, was beaten on Cincinnati's first touchdown, and dropped two potential interceptions, one of which looked to be ready-made for a huge defensive score. Most disappointing might have been two penalties, first a flagrant block in the back that pushed USF back 10 yards at the end of the first half.
Murphy was flagged for a personal foul for a late hit on Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard on an incomplete pass, putting the Bearcats at the USF 17. He later was flagged for pass interference in the end zone, setting up Cincinnati's last touchdown.
The first flag was bad enough that junior linebacker Sabbath Joseph, another defensive leader, grabbed Murphy by the facemask, likely reminding him the importance of discipline in key situations in the game.
Murphy wasn't the only Bull drawing flags Thursday -- defensive tackle Keith McCaskill had two on one play, and USF finished with 12 penalties for 113 yards, including four flags that gave Cincinnati first downs.
AWOL: USF's offense disappeared in the second half, with only four first downs after halftime and a total of 63 yards of offense on the first seven drives of the half.
USF's running backs were completely absent from the third quarter -- Mo Plancher was dropped for a 2-yard loss to open the first drive, and Mike Ford lost 5 yards on first down the next possession. On another first-down play, Lindsey Lamar lost 3, so even adding in a 4-yard run later by Plancher, the backs had minus-6 yards on four carries.
BIG PLAY: Cincinnati safety Aaron Webster's 83-yard interception return is the second-longest ever against the Bulls, and the longest since Cincinnati's Mike Mickens went 79 yards for a touchdown against USF in 2007. The record? New Haven's Adam Kasper went 85 yards in 1999.
THIRD DOWNS: The Bulls failed to convert on 11 straight third downs after getting three of their first four. Part of the problem was struggles on the first two downs -- at one point, the Bulls needed at least 6 yards on eight straight third downs.
Cincinnati didn't mind that at all -- on the first three first downs they converted, they needed 17, 10 and 11 yards, then converted a third and goal from the 16 on Murphy's pass interference penalty.
(Times photo by Chris Zuppa)