Notes: Floyd digs hole early with 3 turnovers
TAMPA -- One sign that USF didn't have a good first quarter on Saturday night: Quarterback Matt Floyd was listed among the top defensive players with two tackles in the opening period.
USF had hoped to see progress from the redshirt freshman with three games stepping in for the injured B.J. Daniels, but he took a step back Saturday with three turnovers in the opening 10 minutes.
On USF's third offensive play, Floyd threw a pass that went off receiver Andre Davis' hands and was intercepted by Pittsburgh, which set up shop at the Bulls' 21 and scored for a 7-0 lead. It was a sign of things to come -- Floyd drove the Bulls down to the Panthers' 5-yard line on the next drive, but on third and goal, was intercepted, and his hustle and tackle was the only thing saving USF from a defensive touchdown.
On the Bulls' next offensive play, Floyd was sacked and had the ball knocked loose, and again, Pittsburgh recovered at the USF 23, setting up a short field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Floyd added a third interception on a deep pass in the third quarter -- he had five interceptions in his three games taking over, but was not able to throw or run for any touchdowns.
SENDING THEM OFF: USF paid tribute to 25 seniors before the game, including five locals: RB Lindsey Lamar (Hillsborough), FB Chris Breit (Plant), walk-on FB Spencer Cavalieri (Gaither), OT Mark Popek (Plant City) and TE Andreas Shields (Wharton).
SPARSE CROWD: USF's final home crowd of the season was generously announced as 35,141, the lowest of the season, down about 1,000 from its last home game against Connecticut four weeks ago. The actual attendance was 18,841, another season low and down from an actual crowd of 20,665 for the UConn win.
GRIEVING: USF coach Skip Holtz said junior DE Tevin Mims, who had started every game for the Bulls, missed the finale to be home attending the funeral of a family friend who died this week and was like a brother to Mims growing up.
FIVE STRAIGHT: Pitt is leaving for the ACC after this season, but the Panthers leave with a five-game win streak against the Bulls, the first opponent ever to do so. Cincinnati and Rutgers beat the Bulls four times in a row from 2006-09, but USF was able to end both streaks in 2010.
THIS AND THAT: Junior defensive end Ryne Giddins, who has bounced back with solid play after being limited much of the season with injuries to both shoulders, returned to the starting lineup and had a pass deflection in the first quarter. ... USF had its best success of the season on kickoff returns, with Marcus Shaw getting a 48-yard return in the first quarter. The Bulls still struggled on punt returns, giving WR Victor Marc a try but watching him not field two punts that were downed at the USF 2-yard line.
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.