TAMPA — Lindsey Lamar's 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter was certainly electric, but it still didn't provide enough of a spark to save the Bulls on Saturday in a 13-9 loss to Syracuse.
"It's extremely disappointing — it doesn't matter, because we lost," said Lamar, who found a seam up the middle then sped down the visiting sideline for USF's first touchdown off a kickoff since Mike Jenkins did it against Cincinnati in 2007. "We had a spark for a few minutes, because our defense came in and pinned them back deep, but we just couldn't finish it."
Syracuse had just taken its first lead at 6-3 when Lamar, a track star at Hillsborough High, burst through the Orange coverage, with two players getting a hand on him but nothing stopping him from matching the third-longest return in USF history.
"It was a wide hole, so I was like, "I hope he's behind me, I'm going to keep running full speed,' said 242-pound FB Richard Kelly, who was still running ahead of Lamar at the Syracuse 30, keeping two Orange players from getting close to him at the end of the return.
THREE SACKS: Also shining a losing effort was DE Craig Marshall, who had three sacks of Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib, the most ever by a Bulls player in a Big East game. The USF single-game record is four sacks, held by George Selvie (2007 vs. Elon) and Shurron Pierson (2002 vs. Southern Miss), but neither Selvie nor first-round pick Jason Pierre-Paul ever had three in a conference game.
"Even with all the pressure and sacks we came up with, the loss is the main thing," Marshall said. "We just have to work on getting better."
FILLING IN: Sophomore Kayvon Webster, who stepped in as a starting cornerback with S Jerrell Young out with an ankle injury, had a career-best eight tackles to lead the Bulls. USF's secondary woes worsened when senior Mistral Raymond, who shifted from cornerback to safety with Young out, bruised his quad late in the first half. He did not return until the fourth quarter and finished with just one assisted tackle. … Backup LB Sabbath Joseph had a strong game, with seven tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on special teams when a USF punt bounced off a Syracuse player.
SMALL CROWD: The attendance was announced as 41,917 based on tickets distributed, but according to the Tampa Sports Authority, the actual attendance was just 30,344, less than the actual average from USF's opening three home games against I-AA Stony Brook and Sun Belt schools Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic.
THIS AND THAT: Senior WR Dontavia Bogan, who had a team-high four catches for 67 yards, made a spectacular one-handed grab on a 32-yard pass that set up USF's only field goal in the second quarter. … The Bulls had hoped to have sophomore WR Sterling Griffin make his season debut, but Griffin, recovering from a dislocated ankle, did not play. Senior Jamar Bass, who would have started at left tackle, did not play after spraining his ankle Wednesday. His replacement, Mark Popek, had a costly false start as the Bulls were going for it on fourth and 1 from the Orange 33. USF opted to punt from the 38. … USF missed a field goal for the third straight game when Maikon Bonani was wide left on a 47-yard attempt. The Bulls also had their only extra-point attempt blocked.