CINCINNATI — With two sacks and a key pass breakup, senior LB Sabbath Joseph stepped up against a prolific Cincinnati offense Friday night, but the highlight of his week came Tuesday, when he became a father with the birth of his daughter, Kalani.
That made it an emotional game for Joseph, who asked all his teammates to find someone special to dedicate the game.
"It meant a great deal," Joseph said. "This whole week has been a big experience for me. I told the guys, 'We're not where we want to be as a team, but just come out here and if there's anything you play the game for, let it be tonight. Whether it be a grandma, an uncle, cousin, friend, anything that inspires you. Come out and give it your all. None of this would be possible without God, so lay it on the line with every breath he gives you.' "
Joseph made a key stop on fourth and 1 when Cincinnati went for it late in the third quarter. On the next play, the Bulls struck for a 70-yard touchdown pass from B.J. Daniels to Faron Hornes for a 15-point lead.
OTHER SIDE: For the third time in a key game this season, the Bulls made a pivotal mistake in the final 90 seconds of the first half, though the Bearcats made their own mistake to limit the damage to USF.
The offense has struggled late in the first half, with Daniels throwing interceptions that led to touchdowns against Florida and West Virginia. On Friday, the defense made the mistake, allowing not only a third-and-20 conversion in the final minute but a long pass to WR Marcus Barnett that looked to be a tying 68-yard touchdown.
But Barnett got a little careless near the sideline, stepping out of bounds at the 4-yard line right before he dived into the end zone.
That's when the Bulls defense stepped up with 1:20 left in the half, coming up with three stops and forcing the Bearcats to settle for a 22-yard field goal.
BEEN A WHILE: When the Bulls took a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter, it marked their first lead in Nippert Stadium since early in the 2004 game, a span that was three minutes short of three full games. The Bulls never led in losses to the Bearcats here in 2006 and 2008.
BACK DEEP: Redshirt freshman walk-on Jonny Sitton, who briefly had the punt return job in the opener before losing a fumble, was back deep Friday, returning Cincinnati's first punt 12 yards. With regular returner Terrence Mitchell trying a switch from cornerback to receiver this week, the Bulls apparently wanted to let him focus on that and put Sitton, an Indian Rocks Christian graduate, in for punt returns.
KICKING GAME: Maikon Bonani, who connected on a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter, is 6-for-7 on field goals since taking over for Eric Schwartz, who went 1-for-5 to start the season.