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USF journal: First-down futility haunts Bulls

The Bulls gained 22 yards on 23 first-down run plays Saturday.

If USF is to diversify its highly maligned offense in the wake of its 28-24 loss to Houston, the first order of business may be…well…first down.

Of USF's 36 first-down plays Saturday, 23 were runs. The Bulls totaled 22 yards on those runs.

The first seven — all in the opening quarter — netted minus-2 yards. Afterward, Coach Charlie Strong was asked if his offense is creative enough.

"They loaded the box, so…whatever they give you, you've got to take," he said. "They loaded the box on us, which prevented us from getting the big long runs. We were able to get the 3 or 4 yards, but we weren't able to just go get the chunk yards."

BITTERSWEET EFFORTS: Statistically, senior WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling had his best game as a Bull, finishing with a career-best 10 catches for 186 yards. The highlight: a 38-yard catch from Quinton Flowers on a simple post route, setting up USF's final touchdown.

"Career things don't really matter to me, I want to win the game," Valdes-Scantling said. "I was doing whatever it took me to do to win, and that didn't happen today."

Defensively, senior DT Deadrin Senat had a career-best 12 tackles, including four for loss and two sacks. The last sack, resulting in a 10-yard loss, came one play before King's fourth-down pass to Lark.

ODDS AND ENDS: USF announced its game next Saturday at UConn will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU. … Houston gained 97 of its 255 rushing yards in the fourth quarter. … MLB Auggie Sanchez's 10 tackles give him 361 for his career, six shy of Kawika Mitchell's all-time school record (367).

AUDIBLE: "I went up, I was gonna try to pat it down. I thought a couple of guys hit me in the back and then I guess that guy caught the ball. Luck never fails and they were pretty lucky on that play, but hat's off to 'em. They made the big plays to win." — Sanchez on Houston QB D'Eriq King's decisive 30-yard rollout pass to Courtney Lark on fourth-and-24