TULSA, Okla. — The team with the faultiest engine block in America encountered more transmission problems Saturday on its Midwest road trip.
Only this time, USF got things humming after halftime, and gave its fan base one of the wildest rides in program history.
Seemingly finished after one half at Tulsa, the Bulls emerged from halftime and, well, finished. Buoyed by the prolific tandem of Mike White and Andre Davis, not to mention the Golden Hurricane's insistence on giving Davis single coverage, USF roared from a 20-point halftime deficit for a 38-30 triumph.
The comeback was USF's biggest ever, topping the 17-point hole from which it rallied in 2008 against Kansas. After staring at 2-5 for part of this crisp, partly cloudy Oklahoma afternoon, the Bulls (3-4, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) can see bowl eligibility in the distance.
"You'd like to think we can build off this," Bulls coach Willie Taggart said. "I think this win, and the way that we won, was much needed for our football team, our young football team."
Any football team, regardless of age group, likely would've taken the rally USF pulled off before a Chapman Stadium audience of 18,744.
After accelerating out of the tunnel in its previous two games, only to wind up failing to keep their foot on the figurative gas and losing down the stretch, the Bulls watched a diametrically opposite script play out Saturday.
This time, they found themselves stuck in neutral at the outset. On their second offensive play, White telegraphed a pass to Davis in the right flat, and cornerback Austin McDaniel jumped the route for a 46-yard interception return.
A Tulsa fumble, and ensuing 34-yard TD run by freshman Marlon Mack (19 carries, 130 yards) tied the score, but the Bulls' final four possessions of the half ended with three punts and a fumble (which led to a Golden Hurricane touchdown).
Meantime, sophomore wideout Keevan Lucas (five catches, 107 yards in the first half) kept finding spots in the Bulls' zone, and Tulsa's offensive line maintained solid push against a Bulls front missing senior nose guard Todd Chandler (first-half suspension).
At halftime, the hosts had outgained the Bulls 314-96, and Taggart said he gave thought to pulling White, 7-for-12 for 61 yards at that point.
"Honestly, I think it was just a matter of just calming down," White said. "It's a big part of playing quarterback — you've got to be able to play comfortable. … I was kind of pushing, pressing the first half, kind of not getting in my comfort zone."
To a person, the Bulls insisted the halftime locker room was bereft of coaches' tirades or tantrums. Taggart, who had spent the week trying to formulate a definition for "learning how to win," defined it again at the break: players making plays when needed, coaches making the proper calls when needed, and Taggart himself making sound decisions.
Then, he left them with a parting shot: The scoreboard is a lie.
"It's not the truth until the end of the game," Taggart said. "Our guys bought into that and took care of business."
Did they ever. The Bulls scored on five of their first six drives of the second half, beginning with Mack's 54-yard run on the third play from scrimmage. Tulsa answered with a field goal, but White capped a seven-play drive with a 15-yard touchdown to Davis.
Tulsa (1-6, 1-2) never got inside the red zone again. On USF's first fourth-quarter possession, White converted twice on third down and finished the 10-play drive with another 15-yarder to Davis (six catches, 154 yards, three scores).
That cut Tulsa's lead to 30-28. On the next play of USF's next possession, Taggart gave the green light to a "bubble take-off," watching the safety bite on an apparent bubble screen before Davis dashed behind the cornerback defending him.
"We had one-one-one coverage," White said, "and I'm going to take Andre Davis in one-on-one coverage any day of the week, twice on Saturdays."
Eighty-five yards later, USF had a lead it didn't relinquish. And the Bulls had a new lease on their postseason life.
"I would say it's a start," said Davis, who has the most 100-yard receiving efforts (six) in school history. "It's definitely a start for us, for something big."
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.