Notes: Third-down woes hurt Bulls on both sides
PITTSBURGH -- So much of USF's struggles in Thursday's 44-17 loss to Pittsburgh can be traced to poor play on third downs, on both sides of the ball for the Bulls.
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder was confounded by the way Pittsburgh's offense consistently extended drives with third-down success, converting 10 of their first 13 opportunities, plus another first down on a third-down personal foul by USF.
"We couldn't get off the field on third down," Snyder said, crediting Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri. "He kept making play after play after play."
Sunseri was sharp on third downs, going 7-for-10 for 96 yards, and Pittsburgh was able to even convert third-and-long situations, with five conversions when needing 7 or more yards.
USF's offense kept pace with that for a half, going 6-for-9 in the first half and trailing just 20-17 at the break. But in the second half, despite setting up third and short plays, the Bulls went 0-for-6 on third downs, with Daniels going 1-for-6 for 3 yards on those plays.
"We did a decent job in the first half, but second half, we didn't bring anything to the table to help our defense," said offensive coordinator Todd Fitch.
USF's decision to implement more of a hurry-up offense helped the Bulls pile up 425 yards of offense, but may have been taxing on the Bulls' defense. None of USF's first seven drives of the second half lasted more than 2:13; by comparison, Pittsburgh's first seven drives were at least seven plays and took at least two minutes, save two plays in the final 26 seconds of the half.
BRIGHT SPOTS: USF receiver Sterling Griffin continued his strong play with a 42-yard catch on the way to 109 total yards, the first 100-yard game by a USF receiver in 18 games under Skip Holtz. ... True freshman defensive tackle Elkino Watson finished with eight tackles, including his first sack and two tackles for loss, giving him a team-best 6.5 TFLs in five games. ... Running backs Darrell Scott (12 carries, 76 yards) and Demetris Murray (10-67) ran well, each averaging better than 6.0 yards per carry, though Scott did lose a fumble in the fourth quarter.
THIS AND THAT: USF's 44-17 loss represented the most points allowed by the Bulls under Skip Holtz and the most lopsided loss in his two seasons. The last time a Holtz-coached team lost by that many points was 2007, when West Virginia handed East Carolina a 48-7 loss. ... In USF's first three seasons in the Big East, the Bulls had no conference losses by 25 points or more; since 2008, they've had four of those, with two each against Pittsburgh and Rutgers. ... Senior receiver A.J. Love left the game with a sprained ankle and did not return. Holtz said he did not know a timetable for his return.