Saturday, May 26, 2018
Colleges

Late Syracuse score extends USF Bulls losing streak to six games

TAMPA — This might have been the cruelest collapse of all for USF football.

Staked to a 23-3 halftime lead Saturday, the Bulls saw that disappear in 10 minutes. But after rallying to lead 33-24, USF's defense did it again, giving up yet another last-minute drive to steal victory away.

Syracuse went 75 yards in the final 1:23 with no timeouts, as Ryan Nassib hit Alec Lemon for a 1-yard touchdown with three seconds left for a 37-36 Orange win at Raymond James Stadium.

"I'm rather speechless on this one," said coach Skip Holtz, whose team is the only one in the nation this season to blow a lead of 20 points or more, according to ESPN. "I wish I could stand up here and say a bunch of things to make it better. Unfortunately, I can't."

The loss is USF's sixth in a row — extending the school record — and the third in which the defense has given up a 75-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes to give up the lead. USF (2-6, 0-4 in Big East) had beaten Syracuse (4-4, 3-1) in six of seven previous meetings.

The Bulls got a school record five field goals from Maikon Bonani, the last giving them a 36-31 lead with 1:23 to play, but that gave the ball back to Syracuse. Nassib completed passes of 19, 20 and 20 yards to get the Orange to the USF 16-yard line. After two penalties, Nassib threw a pass to the 1, setting up a final play with 0:06 left. He threw to Lemon, who beat cornerback George Baker for the winning score.

"When you play pass defense the way we play pass defense, it can make for a long day," said Holtz, who saw Nassib throw for 328 yards and four second-half touchdowns. "It's just heartbreaking, not just for our players, but for all the people who continue to support this program. It's very disappointing we couldn't get it done in the final minutes of the game."

Ball State and Louisville also went 75 yards to erase USF leads in the final minutes during this losing streak, and Holtz suggested changes have to come on his defense.

"We can't stay status quo," he said. "It's not acceptable to sit there and watch a team go for 500-some-odd yards against us, score 37 points, especially in the waning moments of the game like that. … Right now, we are not very good on defense. As the head coach, I have an obligation to the people that support this program, to the players, to try to find an answer. We have four games remaining on the schedule."

Asked if those changes could involve his defensive staff, Holtz said: "I have a lot of things I have to look at right now."

Facing a defense that was allowing 35 rushing yards per game in Big East play, USF rushed for 273 yards in the first half and finished with 369, just 8 short of a school record. Lindsey Lamar rushed for 145, including an 80-yard touchdown, while B.J. Daniels rushed for 134 on 12 carries.

USF led 23-3 after a dominating first half, going directly at Syracuse's strength. USF got its first opening-drive touchdown this season and built on that — Daniels' 53-yard run set up a field goal for a 13-3 lead, then Lamar went 80 yards for a touchdown. By halftime, USF led 20-3 and seven times as many rushing yards as the Orange had allowed per Big East game.

For all that dominance, Syracuse erased a 20-point deficit in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Nassib hit receiver Jarrod West for a 31-yard score on the opening drive and Syracuse, after blocking a punt, scored on Lemon's 4-yard run. Demetris Murray fumbled on the next play, setting up Syracuse at the USF 23, and they converted on third and goal when Nassib hit receiver Marcus Sales for a touchdown and a 24-23 lead, silencing a homecoming crowd announced as 38,562.

But the Bulls fired back, with Daniels hitting Lamar for a 43-yard pass play then running 18 yards to set up a Bonani field goal for a 26-24 lead. Linebacker Reshard Cliett's sack ended Syracuse's next drive, and Daniels led the Bulls on a 64-yard drive, converting two third downs, then hitting Davis for his sixth touchdown catch of the season and a 33-24 lead.

Comments
FSU football fans: How do you remember Jimbo Fisher?

FSU football fans: How do you remember Jimbo Fisher?

Former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher should be back in the state next week for the SEC's spring meetings in Destin. It is, to my knowledge, his first big trip back to Florida since leaving for Texas A&M in December.With that in mind, my questi...
Published: 05/25/18
FSU starter Josh Ball faces Title IX suspension over dating violence accusation

FSU starter Josh Ball faces Title IX suspension over dating violence accusation

Florida State starting offensive tackle Josh Ball faces a university suspension after a Title IX investigation found him responsible for dating violence.The suspension came to light in a Facebook post Monday afternoon by Sandra Sellers, an FSU studen...
Published: 05/22/18
Willie Taggart will take more fourth-down chances than Jimbo Fisher. But how many more?

Willie Taggart will take more fourth-down chances than Jimbo Fisher. But how many more?

TAMPA — Florida State coach Willie Taggart fielded an interesting question near the end of his Q&A with fans during Sunday's booster stop at Armature Works.Are the Seminoles going to be going for it more on fourth down?"We will be goin...
Published: 05/21/18
Athlon: Florida Gators, FSU and Miami will all finish in top 20

Athlon: Florida Gators, FSU and Miami will all finish in top 20

One of the first big nuggets from preseason college football magazines is out: Athlon's top 25.The site considers its rankings a prediction of where teams will be at the end of the year, not the beginning.Alabama and Clemson are 1-2 (no shock). Miami...
Published: 05/21/18
Taggart delivers a bolt to area

Taggart delivers a bolt to area

TAMPA — After spending four years as USF’s football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it’s no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," he sai...
Published: 05/20/18
Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

TAMPA – After spending four years as USF's football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it's no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," ...
Published: 05/20/18
ACC football announces early kickoff times, TV info for FSU, Miami games

ACC football announces early kickoff times, TV info for FSU, Miami games

The ACC has released some kickoff and TV information for the first three weeks of the season:Week 1 (previously announced)Miami vs. LSU (in Arlington, Texas): Sunday, Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m., ABCVirginia Tech at Florida State: Monday, Sept. 3, 8 p.m., ESP...
Published: 05/18/18
Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Old, unofficial news is expected to become old, official news today with a formal announcement that Florida State and Boise State are kicking off the 2019 season in Jacksonville.  A lot has changed since the schools announced the series (FSU pla...
Published: 05/16/18
FSU-Boise State to open 2019 season in Jacksonville

FSU-Boise State to open 2019 season in Jacksonville

What had been an open secret for months is now open and shut: Group of Five power Boise State will face FSU at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville in the teams' 2019 opener.A formal announcement is expected Wednesday, but the '19 schedule on Boise's offi...
Published: 05/15/18
RHP Mark Moclair’s versatility proves valuable to University of Tampa

RHP Mark Moclair’s versatility proves valuable to University of Tampa

TAMPA — He’s the accidental pitcher who can’t be pigeonholed into a defined role. He’s a well-spoken economics major who morphs into fire-breathing intensity on the mound. And he’s one of the biggest reasons why the University of Tampa Spartans are p...
Published: 05/15/18