Notes: 'Foolish' penalty negated record 72-yard punt
TAMPA -- There were so many special-teams mistakes that collaborated to scuttle the Bulls' hopes of a sixth win Friday against Louisville -- a muffed punt return leading to Louisville's first points, a 52-yard kickoff return leading to the Cards' first touchdown -- but the signature moment was a single penalty that cost the Bulls 39 yards in field position in the fourth quarter of a close game.
"We're making some foolish blunders that you can't make and win," coach Skip Holtz said. "Our special teams really was poor, and that's a reflection on us as coaches."
Bulls punter Justin Brockhaus-Kann had continued to struggle, with punts of 26 and 17 yards on his last two attempts, and Skip Holtz finally made a change, bringing in kicker Maikon Bonani for a rugby-style kick from his 16-yard line. The line-drive kick kept bouncing clear to the Louisville 12, and its 72 yards would have matched the school record for longest punt ... had it not been negated by penalty.
USF senior long-snapper Mike Walsh was flagged for a personal foul, forcing a rekick, and with the novelty spoiled, Holtz went back to Brockhaus-Kann, whose punt was returned to the USF 49-yard line, a costly loss in the field-position battle.
"We had an 80-yard kick by Bonani, who did an unbelievable job, and we had a guy hit another guy in the back just running down the field, just a foolish mistake that takes away about 40 yards of field position in a football game," Holtz said.
MISSING: Quarterback B.J. Daniels wasn't the only key contributor out with injury -- the Bulls played without starting cornerback Kayvon Webster (concussion), pressing junior George Baker into a starting role after totaling 10 tackles in the first 10 games. Most costly was leaving Louisville's DeVante Parker uncovered in the end zone on the Cards' go-ahead touchdown.
"You've got a young corner in there ... George Baker played more reps than he has all year today," Holtz said. "I'm certainly not throwing him under the bus, but a young, inexperienced guy, and it's three-deep (zone) and he jumps up on the out cut and leaves the corner route right open behind him. They weren't hard reads, I promise you. We made it easy, made it easier than it should be. ... We weren't very good in the secondary."
CHANGE OF PLAN: USF's first touchdown came as a surprise, with the Bulls going for it on fourth-and-3 and QB Bobby Eveld hitting Lindsey Lamar for a 35-yard touchdown. But initially, Holtz had opted to punt -- showing a lack of confidence in both his offense and his kicker -- but Louisville was surprised enough it didn't have a punt unit on the field and had to call time out. Given a moment to rethink, Holtz sent his offense out and grabbed momentum.
THIS AND THAT: Walsh's personal foul was one of just three penalties for 18 yards for USF on the day, matching the season low for penalties and resetting the low for yards by 22. ... Eveld finished 20-for-35 for 210 yards, resetting his career high. He had 195 last year in his only other start, a loss against Connecticut. ... With short kicks that left little room for returns, USF had allowed minus-2 yards on punt returns all season, putting them on pace for the NCAA season record. Louisville had 5 yards on one return. The Bulls are now 1 yard behind the NCAA mark of 2 yards, set by Miami in 1989. ... Demetris Murray's touchdown pass makes him the first non-quarterback to throw a touchdown pass for USF since Amarri Jackson did it in 2005, also against Louisville.