LOUISVILLE, Ky. — No one play or penalty alone cost USF a victory on Saturday, but the Bulls were especially frustrated by a defensive holding call against LB Tyrone McKenzie on a missed field goal with 1:24 left. Instead of turning it over, Louisville got a first down and ran out the clock.
"They called it a pull and shoot, where they said one of our guys pulled one of their guys on the field goal and allowed someone else to shoot through," said USF coach Jim Leavitt, who said he would submit the play to the Big East's director of officials. "I hope that's a great call, because if it isn't, we would have at least had the ball with one more chance. For that to be called is really beyond belief to me."
McKenzie was adamant that he did not commit the penalty.
"I jumped into the guy and jumped up," McKenzie said. "It was a horrible call. If you watch it on TV, you'll see it the same. I didn't throw him down. The guy was standing on his feet the whole time. I don't know how they make that call."
Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said he had seen USF commit the violation in previous games and agreed with the call.
"They committed a holding penalty. There's no doubt 27 (McKenzie) pulled up," Kragthorpe said. "We've seen it on film and we knew they'd try to do it again."
MAKING A CHANGE: Senior CB Tyller Roberts, who gave up a long touchdown in the loss to Pittsburgh, was beaten deep again, as Scott Long caught a 69-yard pass for Louisville's first touchdown.
Roberts was replaced by redshirt freshman Quenton Washington, later returning when USF was in its nickel package with five defensive backs.
"He definitely is struggling with the deep ball over there, so we had to do something," said Leavitt, who would not say who would start Thursday against Cincinnati.
Washington made his first career start Saturday in place of senior Jerome Murphy, who was held out of the opening series then returned to play the rest of the game. No reason was given for his being held out.
MISSED CHANCE: The rest of the Big East had set things up nicely for USF, with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, previously unbeaten in league play, losing to Rutgers and Connecticut, respectively.
In just 11 conference games, seven of the eight teams have lost. Only West Virginia (2-0) is unbeaten, only Syracuse (0-3) is winless. The league champ has had two conference losses twice in the past four seasons, including a four-way tie atop the standings in 2004, the final season before USF joined the league.
INJURIES: The Bulls lost RT Marc Dile in the first quarter to an unspecified injury, and finished without LB Brouce Mompremier, who took a hit to the back of the head one week after returning from a serious neck injury.
"Physically, he is (okay). Mentally, I don't know," defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. "He got hit in the back of the head, and I think that's a problem, mentally, for him."
RB Mike Ford, who had five carries in the first quarter, did not return after leaving with an unspecified injury.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.