TAMPA — New quarterback, new coordinators, new transfers ... and the same old frustrated look for USF on Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.
Far too often against BYU, the Bulls resembled the squad that struggled through a 2-10 season in 2021 with a porous defense and an inconsistent offense.
After a 2 1/2-hour lightning delay, the trauma started on the first play from scrimmage, an end-around to BYU receiver Puka Nacua, who ran unscathed for a 75-yard touchdown.
The play took 11 seconds.
It was pretty much downhill from there as No. 25 BYU beat the Bulls in almost every way possible en route to a 50-21 season-opening thrashing.
“I felt like we were prepared, but obviously we weren’t,” third-year USF coach Jeff Scott said. “… It was surprising that we couldn’t find much success on either side of the ball.”
It also may have been surprising to Bulls fans, who had reason to be excited about many things entering this season: Legitimate designs for an on-campus stadium, new offensive and defensive coordinators (Travis Trickett and Bob Shoop), 18 returning starters including the entire first-team offensive line and a slew of promising transfers, most notably junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon, who last year started 12 games for Big 12 champ Baylor and threw for 2,200 yards.
None of it changed much of the play on the field Saturday.
With 8:44 left in the first quarter, the Bulls trailed 14-0. Less than a minute later Bohanon threw a pick-six and it was all BYU in the half until the final 14 seconds.
The Bulls scored on a 1-yard dive play by Jaren Mangham and trailed 38-7 at intermission, the air all but sucked out of the stadium.
The first-half offensive stats spoke volumes: BYU outgained USF 337 yards to 179.
“The game got away from us very quickly and then we got into a situation there where we had to throw a lot against a very good defense,” said Scott, who has a 3-19 overall record with only one victory against a Division I-A opponent (34-14 last year over Temple). “Offensively (BYU) was also very good. Their quarterback (Jaren Hall, who completed 25 of 32 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns) played very well and he had way too much time to throw.”
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BYU’s final offensive stats — 575 total yards — reflected the Bulls’ 2021 defensive struggles when they ranked 123rd out of 130 teams, allowing an average of 470 yards a game.
The Bulls also collected only one sack for minus-1 yard, keeping pace with last year’s lack of pressure when USF finished tied for last in Division I-A with Vanderbilt, collecting only nine total sacks in their 12 games.
“We have seen much more pressure in practice, but it’s got to show up in the game,” Scott said. “It makes it very difficult when you can’t put pressure on the quarterback. We have a lot of evaluate and we have to find ways to get better pressure.”
There were bright spots for the Bulls, including an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jimmy Horn to start the second half, a solid night for receiver Xavier Weaver (five catches for 113 yards), and a couple of decent drives engineered by Bohanon.
Bohanon, who finished 17-of-30 for 172 yards and an interception, was anything but pleased.
“I just felt like we weren’t focused,” Bohanon said. “I felt like we never got in the right mindset, the right intensity. We kind of came out flat and waited for the game to come to us rather than us attacking.”
Overall, USF finished with 293 total yards and Mangham led the Bulls’ rushers with 10 carries for 39 yards.
BYU’s top back, Christopher Brooks, often ran through huge holes behind the Cougars’ powerful line, finishing with 13 carries for 135 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown run.
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