PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Perhaps the most frustrating part of USF's last three losses, all with late leads blown, is that every part of the Bulls team has had its turn to take a big share of what went wrong.
At Connecticut, the offense mustered only 10 points. At Cincinnati, the defense gave up 20 in the fourth quarter. And after solid showings on both sides of the ball Saturday, special teams doomed the Bulls with several key mistakes in USF's 20-17 overtime loss at Rutgers.
"I'm really proud of what we did as an offense and what we did as a defense, but special-teams wise … I did not think our punters and kickers did very well," coach Skip Holtz said.
"When you're in a one-score game like that, it can make a difference."
There was much more that went wrong on special teams than two missed field goals and a 32.8-yard punting average. Rutgers' first points came after Victor Marc tried to field a punt after it bounced inside his 20, setting the Scarlet Knights up on the USF 12. After USF took a 17-3 lead in the fourth quarter, Rutgers got back in the game on a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Leto High's Jeremy Deering. And Maikon Bonani's missed kick as time expired in regulation came on a less-than-perfect snap that contributed to him hooking a 27-yard kick wide left.
"If we make an extra point (length kick) with no time remaining in regulation, we win the game, so it's hard to say the kickoff return beat us," Holtz said. "It certainly didn't help. Neither did the deep ball or the fumbled punt that went for three points earlier in the game. There were a lot of things we could go back and change, but we should have done a little better job of coaching."
FRIGID: Saturday night's game has a spot in USF record books among the coldest in the Bulls' 15 years of football. At kickoff, the temperature at High Point Solutions Stadium was 45 degrees, matching the sixth-lowest starting temperature for a Bulls game, and by halftime, it had dropped to 37. The cold weather, combined with Rutgers' two-game losing streak coming in, made for plenty of empty red bleachers.
USF has only won one game in its history played at 45 degrees or colder — a 2007 win at Pittsburgh that was 35 degrees at kickoff.
BEEN A WHILE: When USF scored on B.J. Daniels' 23-yard touchdown pass to Marc midway through the second quarter, it ended a scoreless string of more than six quarters at Rutgers for the Bulls, counting a 31-0 loss in 2009 and the final nine minutes of a loss in 2007.