PITTSBURGH — The penalties started early and came often. USF's lack of rhythm on offense lasted the entire game.
The Bulls, who entered as the Big East's second-best scoring offense, were held to 212 total yards and committed a number of costly penalties during Saturday's 41-14 loss to No. 20 Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.
"I feel like we beat ourselves: penalties, missed opportunities and not completing drives … I don't think they contained us," said redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels, who had 104 yards total offense. "I feel it was us, in terms of 11 guys on the field. There were a lot of things we could have done better. The scheme was there. We just didn't execute."
As a team, the Bulls had nine penalties for 71 yards, including four on the opening two drives.
On the opening kickoff, an illegal block by Nate Allen set the offense back to its 10-yard line.
A first down and a 5-yard gain by senior running back Mo Plancher gave the Bulls second and 5 from their 29. However, junior offensive lineman Jake Sims had a false start, and USF eventually could not convert on third down.
The Bulls had second and 2 from their 40 on the following drive and junior running back Jamar Taylor broke through the left side for a 19-yard gain — but it was called back for an illegal chop block by Sims. On the next play, USF had a 5-yard delay of game penalty.
"We had the offensive line with some penalties," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "Jake Sims never gets a penalty. That's the first time he's ever gotten a penalty this year."
Instead of having the ball near Pittsburgh's 40-yard line, the Bulls were back to their 20.
"It's just frustrating because it seems like every time something good happened for us something bad happened, whether it was a chop block or illegal procedure," USF offensive coordinator Mike Canales said.
USF failed to convert on third downs, going 3-for-11 — frustrated by a bend-but-don't-break Pittsburgh defense that rarely rushed more than three or four down lineman.
Trailing 24-7 toward the end of the second quarter and needing a score, the Bulls were set back again to the 10-yard line from a kickoff return, this time because of a holding penalty. USF was forced to punt and Pittsburgh eventually took a 31-7 halftime lead.
Daniels said the offense needs to get back to executing to turn things around.
"I feel like if we did everything we were coached to do and take advantage of our opportunities then we would be sitting here with a win," he said.