LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If the frustratingly familiar loss at Temple two weeks ago was like Groundhog Day for coach Skip Holtz, then Saturday's 27-25 loss at No. 16 Louisville was simply a rerun.
Read this carefully: The Bulls struggled early, erased a 12-point second-half deficit, took the lead on a fourth-quarter touchdown, then watched their defense allow the Cardinals to drive 75 yards and score a touchdown with 1:08 left and escape with a victory when B.J. Daniels was intercepted on the final play.
Problem is, that's the story from Ball State last month.
The Bulls struggled early, erased an 11-point second-half deficit, took the lead on a touchdown with 3:09 left, then watched their defense let the Cardinals drive 75 yards for a touchdown with 1:35 left and escape with a victory when Daniels was intercepted on the final play.
Same hand, different Cards.
"Seems like we've been here before," coach Skip Holtz said after the Bulls (2-5, 0-3 Big East) lost their fifth game a row, a first in the program's 16-year history.
"We had our opportunities today. … It's a painful feeling to put both your feet in as much as this team has, to jump in as much as they have, to believe in each other, to work as hard as they work and compete as hard as they do and continually end up on the short end in a game like this."
USF trailed 14-3 at halftime but clawed back in the game, getting three touchdowns from Daniels, two on red-zone lobs to receiver Andre Davis, including the go-ahead score. That one had the Bulls in position to knock off the undefeated Cardinals (7-0, 2-0) and end the losing streak.
"I felt we were going to bring it home," Davis said. "Unfortunately, we ended up on the wrong side of the stick.
"We just have to take it as an L. We get the L as a team."
Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, who was 21-of-25 for 256 yards, completed passes of 12 and 14 yards, then converted a third-and-10 play with a 16-yard strike to running back Jeremy Wright. Bridgewater rushed 11 yards to the 22 and USF cornerback Kayvon Webster was flagged for a late hit, putting the Cardinals at the USF 11. On the next play, Bridgewater connected with Eli Rogers for the winning score.
"Of course it's tough. We pride ourselves in becoming better finishers. We had a chance to finish there," USF linebacker Sam Barrington said. "With two minutes left, I'm sitting there confident, like God finally blessed us and helped us win. Now I'm talking on the other end."
The Bulls blocked the extra point, however, so a field goal could have still won it. With USF starting on its 24 with 1:35 left, Daniels was sacked for a 10-yard loss, and by the time a penalty gave the Bulls the ball back at the 24, there were only 50 seconds left. USF used its final timeout after a first-down run with 43 seconds left, opting not to run up for a spike, a move that forced a scramble in the final seconds.
Daniels completed a 10-yard pass to Davis with 26 seconds left and officials stopped to measure the play, but after it was ruled a first down, seven seconds ran off the clock before the snap. Daniels threw an incompletion out of bounds, leaving USF with only 11 seconds. Another pass went incomplete, and with three seconds left, USF was still at its 47, out of field-goal range; Daniels' last pass was intercepted by cornerback Adrian Bushell.
"I'm trying to get the next play in, make sure we can do whatever we can to put ourselves in position to kick a field goal," Daniels said.
The offense deserves a share of the loss as well — the Bulls had a 4-yard Lindsey Lamar touchdown overturned on replay in the third quarter, with the ball placed inside the 1-yard line. Three times, the Bulls lined up with three backs behind Daniels, and three times they were stopped short.