By Leo Haggerty


South Florida travelled north again.  This time it was for their American Athletic Conference opener with Cincinnati.  USF came out on the short end of a 28-7 score at Nippert Stadium.  The Bulls fell to 1-2 on the season and the Bearcats advanced to 3-0 on the campaign.

After turnovers by each team on their first two drives, UC forced a Green & Gold punt.  Cincinnati then went on a 13-play drive that took 6:02 to traverse 92 yards.  RB Gerrid Dukes rambled the final 10 yards to paydirt and K Cole Smith added the PAT to put the Bearcats up 7-0 with 4:28 left in the first period.

Bulls RB Johnny Ford returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards putting USF in good field position at the UC 30 yard line.  The drive stalled after three plays and K Jared Sackett missed a field goal from 35 yards out.

Cincinnati extended its lead with 39 seconds left before halftime.  QB Desmond Ridder found Josh Whyte from 13 yards out.  That capped an 11-play drive that took 4:53 and covered 65 yards.  Smith’s kick was true and that put UC up 14-0.

The Bearcats increased their lead at 4:01 of the third period.  Ridder hit Bruno Labelle from three-yards out to finish off a 67 yard drive in 8 plays that took 4:10. Smith was true with the PAT and Cincinnati looked in complete control at 21-0.

USF answered with a score of their own with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.  Ford found the end zone from two yards out ending a 10-play drive that travelled 65 yards in 3:06.  Sackett’s kick cut the UC lead to 21-7.

Any hopes that USF had of getting back in the tilt were dashed in 13 seconds.  The Bearcats Tre Tucker took the kickoff to the house.  Smith was good again with the PAT.  That pushed the Cincinnati lead to 28-7 and that would be the final arithmetic as both teams went scoreless in the final 15 minutes of play.

Both offenses were guilty of committing numerous turnovers.  Cincinnati gave the ball up four times and South Florida had five passes intercepted.

The biggest problem for the Green & Gold defense was getting off the field when it had the opportunity.  UC was 10-of-17 on third down and converted their only fourth down attempt.  I posed that question to Bulls HC Jeff Scott after the game.

LH : When you look at the game from a defensive perspective, you played good on 1st and 2nd down but couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down.  Would that be a correct assessment?

JS : Yeah, we just couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down.  I just look at it, honestly, that we have to get better.  It is what it is.  I felt like when we had them in third-and-long we did a pretty good job.  When it was short yardage, we have to get some stops.  We have to make plays.  We just couldn’t stop the run and that’s something we are going to have to do better.

Another problem is numerous USF players are still absent from participating.  I brought that up to Coach Scott as well.

LH  : Everyone talks about the next man up philosophy when you have players that can’t go.  You’ve been missing the left side of your offensive line from the first game.  You said earlier that you don’t have the depth to fill in with quality replacements.  How much of a problem has that become?

JS : I think for us, all that we can do, is adjust.  We have to adjust to the guys that are going through it.  Because of this I think we will be better for it.  We have some offensive lineman out.  We have a couple linebackers out.  Just too many guys out right now.  When we do get them back, we’ll have a lot of guys that have played a lot of ball.  Right now, I can’t stand up here and say we didn’t play well today because we didn’t starters there.  You just have to coach everybody up and play with what you have.  I do look forward to the day when we do get all of our guys back .  I don’t know when that time is.  It’s a strange year.  It’s uncomfortable but it will create some growth because there’s a lot of guys getting reps todays.  Right now, there’s some growing pains with our program but a lot of guys are going to get experience.  That will help create some depth.  The more guys that you play means you have more guys down the road that can help you.  No, it’s not a lot of fun right now.  We have to take ownership of where we are right now.  We have to play better and we’ll get that opportunity next week.  We get on it right away.  That’s what we’ll do.

South Florida returns to action Saturday.  The Bulls take on AAC opponent East Carolina with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.