Notes: Bulls doomed by special-teams mistakes
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Perhaps the most frustrating part of USF's last three losses, all with late leads blown, is that every part of the Bulls team has had its turn to take a big share of what went wrong.
At Connecticut, the offense mustered only 10 points. At Cincinnati, the defense gave up 20 in the fourth quarter. And after solid showings on both sides of the ball Saturday, special teams doomed the Bulls with several key mistakes in USF's 20-17 overtime loss at Rutgers.
"I'm really proud of what we did as an offense and what we did as a defense, but special-teams wise ... I did not think our punters and kickers did very well tonight," coach Skip Holtz said. "When you're in a one-score game like that, it can make a difference."
There was much more than went wrong on special teams than two missed field goals and a 32.8-yard punting average. Rutgers' first points came after Victor Marc attempted to field a punt after it bounced inside his 20, setting the Scarlet Knights up on the USF 12. After USF took a 17-3 lead in the fourth, Rutgers got back in the game on a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Leto's Jeremy Deering. And Maikon Bonani's missed kick as time expired came with a less-than-perfect snap.
"If we make an extra point (length kick) with no time remaining in regulation, we win the game, so it's hard to say the kickoff return beat us," Holtz said. "It certainly didn't help. Neither did the deep ball or the fumbled punt that went for three points earlier in the game. There were a lot of things we could go back and change, but we should have done a little better job of coaching."
FRIGID: Saturday night's game has a spot in USF record books among the coldest in the Bulls' 15 years of football. At kickoff, the temperature at High Point Solutions was 45 degrees, matching the sixth-lowest starting temperature for a Bulls game, and by halftime, it had dropped to 37 degrees. The cold weather, combined with Rutgers' two-game losing streak coming in, made for plenty of empty red bleachers in amongst the Scarlet Knights fans.
USF had only won one game in their history played at 45 degrees or colder -- a 2007 win at Pittsburgh that was 35 degrees at kickoff. Including that game, the Bulls came in 1-6 in games played at 45 or colder.
BEEN A WHILE: When USF scored on B.J. Daniels' 23-yard touchdown pass to receiver Victor Marc midway through the second quarter, it ended a scoreless string of more than six quarters at Rutgers for the Bulls, counting a 31-0 loss in 2009 and the final nine minutes of a loss in 2007.
THIS AND THAT: Receiver Victor Marc had an up-and-down game -- he caught a 23-yard touchdown pass, but also fumbled (and recovered) on his first carry, then recovered another fumble by running back Darrell Scott. A bigger mistake came in the third quarter, when he tried to field a punt on the bounce inside USF's 20. He muffed the punt and Rutgers recovered at the USF 12, leading to a 33-yard field goal. ... Freshman receiver Andre Davis (Jefferson) got his first career start, catching a 16-yard pass to convert a third down on USF's second drive. ... USF held Rutgers to minus-4 rushing yards in the first half, with primary running back Jawan Jamison held to minus-8 on eight carries.
Times writer Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.