The message last week from USF coach Jeff Scott was it’s time for victories.
No more talk of how the Bulls had played a tough schedule or that they were better than their two-win record. Enough listening to national commentators say USF was on the rise and preparing to jump into a future spotlight.
It was time to win, Scott said, starting Saturday at Tulane, the American Athletic Conference’s bottom feeder at 1-9, 0-6 in the league.
Then the Bulls entered Yulman Stadium in New Orleans and got steamrolled 45-14, halting the Green Wave’s eight-game losing streak.
“This is very disappointing because we simply didn’t play well enough at any position to win this game,” Scott said. “As coaches, it’s up to us to put our guys in position to win, and that didn’t happen. Ultimately as the head coach, it’s up to me to correct it, and I will.”
The first half was particularly troubling. After USF (2-9, 1-6) got off to a promising start — it began the game with an eight-play, 65-yard touchdown drive — it was all Green Wave the rest of the way.
Tulane scored touchdowns on its first five drives in rapid-fire style. Its opening touchdown drive to tie it was two plays for 74 yards in 36 seconds, followed by the second drive (four plays, 22 yards, 1:12), the third (one play, 30 yards, 7 seconds), the fourth (eight plays, 82 yards, 3:37) and the fifth (seven plays, 76 yards, 2:07).
At halftime, the Green Wave led 35-7, had racked up 356 yards of offense and averaged 11.1 yards a play.
Like its defense, USF’s offense fell flat, finishing the half with 201 yards, an average of 4.4 a play. At halftime, freshman quarterback Timmy McClain was 12-of-23 for 120 yards, had been sacked three times and had an interception.
Adding to the Bulls’ frustration was Spencer Shrader’s 51-yard field goal sailing wide left in the final seconds of the half, his first miss of the season after making nine in a row.
The second half wasn’t much better for USF.
Its defense finally got a couple of stops, but McClain and the offense never found a rhythm.
After eight consecutive drives without a score, McClain was done for the day with 4:18 left in the third quarter, giving way to backup Cade Fortin. McClain, who often has been electrifying this season, finished 15-of-27 for 132 yards and an interception.
Scott, however, said there was plenty of blame to go around for the offensive struggles.
“I don’t put this game on (McClain),” said Scott, whose team had been averaging more than 31 points in McClain’s seven previous starts. “He didn’t play well enough to win, but we didn’t block well enough for him to win. We didn’t run the routes well enough for him to win. It’s not like we played clean all around him and he just played a poor game. It’s really across the board, and that’s what’s most frustrating.”
Scott said he was surprised how often his offensive line got beat, a big reason why Tulane finished with eight tackles for loss and five sacks.
“The offensive line has been one of our most consistent groups for us,” he said. “We’ll have to look at the tape and see what was happening there.”
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Defensively, the Bulls yet again looked severely shorthanded and vulnerable, even against a below-average offense. And defensively, the Green Wave entered the game ranked 119th in Division I-A in scoring (36.1 points per game) and 113th in total defense (446.7 yards per game).
Tulane, which was averaging 368.2 yards per game, finished with 501. Freshman Michael Pratt, who was completing about 58 percent of his passes, went 19-of-24 for 311 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
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