TAMPA — In a game lost by three points, USF coach Skip Holtz defended his decision to allow about 20 seconds to run off the clock in the final minute of the first half, surrendering a shot at a touchdown to settle for a tying field goal on third down.
"I was not willing to roll the dice, call the timeout with 15 seconds, try to run a drop-back play, take a sack and all the sudden, you don't even get the three points out of it," Holtz said after Saturday's 37-34 defeat to Cincinnati.
"The decision I made at that second was, 'Don't get caught here without a point. Take your timeout. Kick the field goal. Make sure it's 10-10.' "
Facing second and goal at the 2 with 28 seconds left and one timeout, Holtz called for a quick pass. But QB B.J. Daniels chose to try to score on a keeper and was stopped for no gain. A timeout would have stopped the clock with about 23 seconds left, allowing for one pass into the end zone before, if necessary, settling for a short field goal on fourth down.
"If it wouldn't have been (incomplete) and something happened, we would have gotten zero points," Holtz said. "Then I'm sitting here answering questions, looking my team in the eye, saying, 'Why didn't you take the timeout and kick the field goal?' I felt like in a 10-7 football game, the three points were the most important thing.
"We had first and second down. We had our opportunities to get it in there."
Daniels said he was upset Cincinnati players didn't get off of him quickly — and that the officials didn't help.
"They just wouldn't let me get up. There's a big pile," Daniels said. "The refs, I don't want to say they weren't getting them off me, but I couldn't get up. That was running seconds off the clock, and that hurt. I was in the mix between trying to figure out if we should call a timeout — being that we had only one left — and being mad at the referees at the same time."
GRIFFIN HURT: Sophomore Sterling Griffin, USF's top receiver, left the game after injuring his right ankle, the same one he dislocated during the summer of 2010 that forced him to miss all of last season.
The severity of the injury has not been determined. Griffin has more than double his closest teammate in receptions (40) and receiving yards (493).
Two young receivers stepped up even before Griffin's injury. Redshirt freshman Deonte Welch had a career-best five catches for 130 yards, and freshman Andre Davis (Jefferson) had four for 60, including the go-ahead 10-yard touchdown with 1:27 to play.
THIS AND THAT: Sophomore CB JaQuez Jenkins made his first start as USF worked primarily out of its nickel package. LB Michael Lanaris, the Bulls' leading tackler entering the game, was out of the lineup. … WR Victor Marc took over punt-return duties and had a 40-yarder that set up the touchdown that gave the Bulls a 27-17 lead in the third quarter. … The 20 points allowed in the fourth quarter is the third most in USF history. … The only other time USF surrendered two fourth-quarter leads was in a 2009 loss at Connecticut.