TAMPA — For the third consecutive game, the USF offense did just about all it could to win. But not even 552 yards of total offense were enough to stop the Bulls' losing streak, which stretched to six games after their 37-36 loss to Syracuse on Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.
They rushed for 369 yards, including 273 in the first half. They were only forced to punt twice. They left Syracuse with no timeouts and 83 seconds to score a touchdown at the end of the game. Still, none of it was enough.
"The coaching book says you're not supposed to run for 370 yards and lose," coach Skip Holtz said. "I just have a hole in my heart for some of the players that went out and competed as well as they did, and we weren't able to get it done."
B.J. Daniels had 183 yards and one touchdown passing to go with his 134 yards rushing. Lindsey Lamar also shined, running for a career-high 145 yards and a touchdown before leaving with what Holtz called a chest injury.
USF's rushing success came despite a hobbled offensive line, which was already missing starter Mark Popek and also lost right guard Danous Estenor in the second half.
"Really proud of the backs, the way they ran the ball, and obviously the line," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "A couple plays we'd like to have back obviously. … The turnover in the third quarter obviously is a negative."
Fitch was referring to running back Demetris Murray's fumble that helped Syracuse climb back into the game after USF led by 20 at halftime. Fitch also said having to settle for a field goal five times helped keep the game within reach.
The Bulls reversed their trend of struggling offensively in the first half, scoring on their opening drive for the first time this season on a 1-yard Murray run.
Daniels said at halftime, he thought this was finally the game that would turn the tide for the Bulls.
"Yeah, obviously, I mean we got up on them, but we needed just to be consistent — that third quarter was kind of rough for us," the senior quarterback said.
But once again, the game was out of his control in the final seconds. Daniels said it was difficult to watch.
"I wouldn't necessarily say it's exactly the same, just getting more dramatic," he said. "It really is (hard), but honestly I feel like we're learning life lessons through this. … We're going to have to get up and make sure we do something good for the rest of the season."