More of the same: Bulls fall to WVU, 20-6
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- USF's offensive struggles continued for another week, B.J. Daniels threw three more interceptions and the Bulls' defense couldn't do it all by itself, as the Bulls lost another Thursday night ESPN game, falling 20-6 at No. 25 West Virginia.
The Bulls have now gone two full games without an offensive touchdown, with only two Maikon Bonani field goals to show for Thursday's effort.
"We've got to put some points up. We're playing way too well on defense. They deserve better," coach Skip Holtz said after the Bulls dropped to 0-2 in Big East play for the first time in six seasons in the league. "Our offense right now is not very productive. It's bad. It really is."
The Bulls (3-3, 0-2) now have eight days to prepare for another difficult Big East road test next Friday at Cincinnati. West Virginia (5-1, 1-0) was a team USF had owned, winning three of the previous four, but that magic wasn't there on Thursday night.
The scoring drought USF is in is a record one -- the 15 points USF has scored in its last two losses are the fewest in any two consecutive regular-season games in the Bulls' 14-year history, resetting the previous low of 17 scored against Arkansas and Oklahoma in 2002.
"It's tough. It's real tough when you don't do your job as far as scoring," said Daniels, who passed for 119 yards on 20-of-30 passing. "We're not going to give up. We still have more than half the season left. The only thing we can do is keep pushing. We're not going to throw in the towel and make excuses about what we do have or don't have."
USF's defense gave up 150 yards and 10 points on the Mountaineers' first two drives, then shut things down, holding them to 148 yards on 10 drives, the only touchdown coming on a very short field.
USF trailed just 10-3 with a minute left in the first half when Daniels made a costly -- and familiar -- mistake to give momentum back to the Mountaineers and a crowd of 54,955 at Milan Puskar Stadium.
After throwing costly interceptions in the final 90 seconds before halftime against Florida and Western Kentucky, USF's quarterback found himself on his own 13-yard line with 51 seconds left in the half against West Virginia on Thursday night, with the Bulls' defense holding the Mountaineers in check.
But Daniels again tried a risky pass, scrambling and throwing to receiver Evan Landi, and his throw was intercepted by WVU's Robert Sands and returned to the USF 7-yard line. The Bulls' defense, which had forced four straight punts, saw the Mountaineers score on a hook-and-ladder play, with Geno Smith throwing to receiver Jock Sanders, who pitched to running back Noel Devine for a 7-yard touchdown and a 17-3 halftime lead.
"I take some of that blame on myself," Holtz said. "Especially after what we did at Florida, I probably should have said 'Take a knee and go in and it's a one-score game.' ... I asked (Daniels) if it's not there, throw it away. ... We can't make those mistakes."
The Bulls came in needing a spark on offense after coming up with only a field goal from that side of the ball in Saturday's 13-9 loss to Syracuse, a team USF had beaten in five previous meetings. Daniels was accurate, but mostly on short screens -- aside from Dontavia Bogan (11 catches for 98 yards), none of his 11 completions went longer than 8 yards. USF went 1-for-11 on third downs.
Two interceptions in the fourth quarter gave Daniels 10 this season, one more than he finished with in all of 2009 as a redshirt freshman. In three games this season against teams from BCS automatic-qualifier conferences, Daniels has just one passing touchdown and nine interceptions, while USF's defense has been unable to force turnovers at anywhere near the same rate -- zero in the last two losses.
"In eight quarters, we've put up nine points as an offense," Holtz said. "We have to take a hard look at where we are, what we're doing, who we're doing it with, how we're doing it. We can't continue going the way we're going right now."