USF Could Not Come Back From Slow Start

The sentiments of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt following the 52-21 drubbing of his Bulls summed up Saturday night?s contest.

?We got our behinds kicked. They beat us in every way. They beat us on offense, they beat us on defense and special teams. We just got beat by a better team,? Leavitt said. ?I have no idea why we played the way we did. There are no excuses.?

The distraught coach had reason for being upset. The Bulls came out flat on both sides of the ball from the opening kickoff in a game they could not afford to.

Utah set the tone of the game in dominating the game?s initial drive. Utah running back Dameon Hunter ran seven times for 40 yards during the 81-yard drive, including a 4 yard touchdown strike.

But success would also come through the air against the porous Bull secondary. Later in the first quarter, Utah QB Lance Rice threw touchdown passes of 43 and 10 yards to Josh Lyman and Paris Jackson, respectively.

In quarter No. 1, the Bull defense surrendered 191 yards (102 pass, 89 rush) and three scores for a 21-0 deficit. The 21 points were the most given up by South Florida in the team?s five-year existence.

But the South Florida offense and special teams were also to blame for the lackluster start. Three first-quarter possessions resulted in two three-and-outs and one fumble. The Bulls? offense ran but six plays in the quarter for a paltry 11 yards. The South Florida offense had possession of the ball for just 1:58 of the first quarter versus the Utes? 13:02.

But there was no bitterness by defensive anchor Joe Morgan.

?I can?t be disappointed with the offense. The defense put ourselves in a hole,? said the strong safety, who had 11 tackles and an interception for the 2-3 Bulls. ?I love them when they?re doing good, but I can?t get down on them.”

Morgan?s pick put a stop to the second Ute drive, which started with 8:59 in the first. After a nine-play, 50-yard Utah march into the red zone, Morgan caught a deflected pass intended for Ute WR Cliff Russell. However, the Bull offense could not do anything, and good field position set up the second Utah touchdown.

On the ensuing kickoff, the South Florida special teams followed the theme of the quarter. Ute special teamer Anthony White jarred the ball loose from the hands of returner Kenny Robinson. Utah?s Quincy Watkins recovered the uncorralled cowhide on the Bull 18-yard line. Five plays later, another touchdown, further burying the visiting team.

It was not the opening quarter South Florida needed in its biggest game of the year. To up-end a hot Utah team, who entered the matchup on a two-game winning streak, the Bulls had to start strong. Instead, the outmatched Bulls were down from the opening drive, forced to rely on the pass and play catch-up.

?We got spanked tonight, but we?ve got to bounce back,? said South Florida QB Marquel Blackwell, who was 28-of-55 for 281 yards and 2 TDs in the game. ?Good teams bounce back.?

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