More of same: Bulls go cold in 27-10 loss at Cincy
CINCINNATI -- Remember when there seemed to be nothing more difficult for Bulls fans than the close, last-minute defeats that piled up into a six-game losing streak earlier this season?
The Bulls are now offering fans an alternate experience, with a second straight blowout loss Friday night, struggling on offense in No. 3 quarterback Matt Floyd's first career start. After a 40-9 loss at Miami, the Bulls showed little spark in a 27-10 loss at Cincinnati, becoming the first USF football team to lose eight games in a season.
"There were a lot of mistakes made, and there really weren't a lot of plays made tonight," coach Skip Holtz said. "I thought the young quarterback stood in there and showed an awful lot of poise, an awful lot of toughness. I was really proud of the way he competed. We certainly, in the last two weeks, have not done a lot to help him on the perimeter."
The mounting losses only add to public criticism of Holtz, who has lost 13 of his last 15 Big East games; all signs point to him being allowed to return for another season to try to turn things around in 2013.
The Bulls (3-8, 1-5 in Big East) barely avoided the lowest-scoring three-game stretch in their history -- USF has scored 32 points in its last three games, better only than the 23 points scored in the final three games of 2005. The Bulls went more than 10 quarters without scoring a touchdown, showing how much they miss quarterback B.J. Daniels, out most of that span with a season-ending leg injury. Demetris Murray ended the drought with a 5-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.
"It's part of being young in a lot of respects," Holtz said of the lopsided losses. "You're still looking at a lot of youth out there on the football field. I'm certainly not making that as an excuse. We expect them to go out and compete. We talked about a lot of guys having to step up with the productivity of B.J. out of the lineup. I don't think that has been the case. ... We're not helping (Floyd) a lot."
USF's defense, which had struggled against the pass in last week's loss at Miami, kept the game reasonably close into the third -- the Bulls had the ball inside the Cincinnati 10-yard line, in position to get within a touchdown of the lead. But Holtz settled for a field goal, and then the defense stopped stopping the Bearcats (8-3, 3-2), who pulled away to an easy win in their last home game.
The Bulls hurt themselves with fumbles -- they officially had a school-record seven in the game, though they only lost two -- four of the loose balls came from Floyd, mostly on bad exchanges on snaps. Murray's fumble was recovered by Cincinnati to set the Bearcats up at the USF 19, and quarterback Brendon Kay scrambled 18 yards for a 7-0 lead.
USF's offense couldn't muster any sustained drives, but the defense kept the game close, that is, until allowing an 81-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 3-yard touchdown from Kay to tight end Travis Kelce with 2:58 left in the half for a 13-0 lead.
The Bulls' offense started clicking in the third quarter, but a drive stalled inside the Cincinnati 10. Faced with a fourth and 2 at the Bearcats 7 and trailing 13-0, Holtz opted to settle for a Maikon Bonani 25-yard field goal.
USF nearly had a break when Cincinnati muffed a punt late in the third quarter, and the Bulls' Fidel Montgomery dived to get the ball as it went out of bounds. He was ruled out of bounds, and Holtz used a time out to encourage a review, but the call was upheld. On the next play, Kay connected with Kenbrell Thompkins for a 47-yard gain to the 3, and Winn scored on the next play for a 20-3 lead.
For the second week in a row, Floyd struggled early, completed just 5 of 15 passes in the first half for 47 yards. He fumbled five snaps, though USF was able to recover all five, and Floyd had better success leading drives in the second half, but the game was already out of reach.
"It felt really good," Floyd said of the long-awaited touchdown. "It just felt nice to get back in the end zone."
USF's defense still has only two interceptions all season -- both in the fourth quarter against UConn -- and no other Big East team in the last six seasons has finished with less than seven. The Bulls have now dropped eight of nine games -- no team in USF's 16-year history had lost more than seven games, and the Bulls still have a home finale against Pittsburgh (4-6, 1-4) next weekend.