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USF again fails to muster pass rush in loss to Tulsa

The Bulls had no sacks Friday and have totaled only three in six games this season.
Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith (11) throws a pass against USF during the second half Friday in Tampa.
Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith (11) throws a pass against USF during the second half Friday in Tampa. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Oct. 23, 2020
Updated Oct. 24, 2020

TAMPA — Among the smorgasbord of issues USF must address during the upcoming bye week is a steady propensity for staying socially distanced from the opposing quarterback.

The Bulls failed to muster any kind of pass rush in Friday’s 42-13 loss to Tulsa, resulting in a mostly sparkling night for veteran Golden Hurricane quarterback Zach Smith (16-for-24, 233 yards, one TD, one INT).

“Wasn’t good enough,” said coach Jeff Scott, whose defense didn’t record a sack. “There’s really nothing else to say. We haven’t had a good pass rush all year long.”

Of the 76 Division I-A teams who had played a game entering the weekend, USF ranked last in sacks per game (0.60) and now has totaled three in six games. Equally frustrating is a failure to get off the field on third down; Tulsa was 7-for-12 on third down Friday.

The Bulls' third-down-percentage defense (51.8) ranked 69th nationally entering the game.

“Tulsa executed very well, and we did not," Scott said. "And I just thought that was kind of the story in the first half.”

Are they still united?

Scott, who has made unity a program acronym from Day 1 (United from Start to Finish), acknowledged disappointment in the level of frustration exhibited by some of his players Friday night.

“I know they’re frustrated, but I really felt like it was the first time all year that I saw some guys doing some disappointing things,” he said. “Hey, in Year 1, that’s the things we’ve got to correct and clean up.”

ESPN’s cameras captured veteran safety Nick Roberts heading to the locker room with his pads off after a sideline squabble during the second half. Roberts later tweeted he didn’t walk off the field on his own, indicating he may have been ordered to leave the sideline.

“I was told what happened, but I haven’t talked to Nick yet or found out," Scott said. "But that will definitely be addressed whenever we get back next week.”

Finally, a full roster

For the first time this season, USF had no player on its “unavailable” list released moments before Friday night’s kickoff against Tulsa.

Related: USF receiver DeVontres Odoms-Dukes a model of persistence in portal era

The stability stood in glaring contrast to prior games, when COVID-19 and conventional injuries left the Bulls (1-4, 0-3 American Athletic Conference) frighteningly thin at some positions. Twelve players, including three starting offensive linemen, were unavailable for the Sept. 12 season opener against the Citadel, and seven — including two specialists — were unavailable the following week at Notre Dame.

Days after the loss to the Irish, USF announced the postponement of its Sept. 26 game at Florida Atlantic following a number of positive COVID-19 tests within the Irish program.

Friday’s barren “unavailable” list notwithstanding, Bulls tailback Darrian Felix, who has been nursing a nagging injury, didn’t play against the Golden Hurricane.

Odds and ends

USF has totaled 13 turnovers in its four American Athletic Conference games. ... USF was seeking the program’s 100th home victory. The Bulls are 99-52 all-time at home, with 93 of those wins at Raymond James Stadium and six at the old Tampa Stadium. ... Friday’s triumph was Tulsa’s second in a row. The Golden Hurricane hadn’t put together consecutive victories since ending the 2016 season with three wins in a row.