By Leo Haggerty



By Leo Haggerty


USF saw a 13-point fourth quarter lead evaporate and lost a heartbreaking road contest to Memphis 34-33 at the Liberty Bowl.  The win moved the Tigers to 4-2 this season (3-2 in the American Athletic Conference) and the Bulls fell to 1-6 (0-5 in the AAC) for the 2020 campaign.

South Florida scored first at 12:19 of the opening period.  After forcing a Memphis turnover on downs at the Tigers 34 yard line, the Green & Gold took only four plays to go two yards in 1:23.  K Spencer Shrader booted a 49 yard field goal to give the Bulls a 3-0 advantaged.

The Tigers got on the scoreboard at 7:32 of the first period.  After forcing a USF punt, Memphis moved 31 yards in five plays consuming 1:37 of clock time.  K Riley Patterson was true from 52 yards out and that tied the score at 3 each.

After forcing another South Florida punt, the Blue & Gray took the lead with 3:33 left in the opening 15 minutes.  Again, it was Patterson hitting this time from 33 yards that ended a seven-play drive that took 2:14 to traverse 43 yards.  This put Memphis up 6-3.

USF received the ensuing kickoff and took 4:16 to go 46 yards in 11 plays at the 14:18 mark of the second quarter.  Shrader again split the uprights this time from 47 yards and the score was knotted at 6 apiece.

The South Florida defense got into the act just 1:16 seconds later.  On the Tigers next possession, QB Brady White was picked off by DB Daquan Evans who took it 51 yards to the house.  K Jared Sackett added the PAT and that gave USF the lead at 13-6.

It only took Memphis 1:23 and three plays to go 65 yards to tie the score.  White found WR Calvin Austin III on a 65-yard strike with 11:33 left in the second stanza.  Patterson was true with the PAT and that made it 13-13.

It took USF nine seconds to take back the lead.  On the first play following the kickoff, QB Noah Johnson found WR Kelley Joiner Jr. on a pass-and-run that covered 65 yards.  Sackett’s kick was good and South Florida moved to a 20-13 advantage.

The Bulls weren’t done scoring in the first half.  After turning Memphis over on downs for the second time of the contest, the Green & Gold went 63 yards in seven plays in 3:05.  Johnson found TE Mitchell Brinkman for a three-yard score.  Sackett converted the extra point and that increase the USF margin to 27-13.

Memphis cut into the USF lead on their first possession after halftime at 8:52 of the third quarter.  After holding the Bulls to a three-and-out, the Tigers marched 59 yards in 10 plays taking 5:09.  White found TE Sean Dykes for a five-yard score.  Patterson’s kick made it 27-20 Bulls.

USF increased its lead on their next possession.  The Green & Gold took 4:50 to go 67 yards in 11 plays.  Shrader hit his third FG of the tilt and USF stretched its lead to 30-20 with 3:58 left in the third quarter.

After three punts, South Florida scored again 4:36 left in the contest.  Shrader was good from 46 yards and that seemed to give USF an insurmountable 33-20 advantage but that was not the case.

When I questioned HC Jeff Scott if he felt that USF just can’t catch a break, he responded, “Yeah, there’s a little bit of that.  I really felt that we were going to intercept the ball on their last drive.  The tipped ball was a big play.  I thought that probably would have ended the game right there.  Just a couple inches short.  There was another play where we threw the ball in the end zone and it was a foot-and-a-half too long.  Didn’t get any points on that drive.  Yeah, there’s a little bit of that feeling but we can’t worry about that.  We have to move on and stay focused on our execution.  I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that I’ve been a part of teams that had a lot of breaks going their way.  For whatever reason, now we are just coming up short a little bit.  With all that said, I don’t like the adversity were in right now.  The only way to respond to it is to understand that we will be better from it once we come out of it.  The big question you need to gauge as a head coach is were we getting better or are we getting worse?  Even though we didn’t do things the right way on the last couple of drives, I believe that we are getting better.  That’s something we can build off of and work off of.  I am very confident that there’s much better days ahead for the Bulls.

The two drive Coach Scott was referring to were a three-and-out and a four-and-out that ate 91 seconds of clock time.  That allowed Memphis to come back.

The first Tiger score came at 3:19 of the final period.  White found Dykes again this time from 10 yards out that finished off a 72-yard drive in 1:17 that took 7 plays.  Patterson’s kick cut the Bulls lead to 6 at 33-27.

After forcing a USF punt, Memphis scored the deciding touchdown with 1:20 left in regulation.  White hit Austin III for the second time capping a 76 yard drive that took 8 plays and 1:20. Patterson hit the game-winning PAT to give the Tigers a 34-33 advantage.

South Florida had one last gasp to win.  That ended when the Green & Gold turned the pigskin over on downs.

I asked Coach Scott is this type of loss, where you can review every play as being a game changer, harder to come back from and he stated, “I don’t know how hard it is to come back from because we’ve had to come back so much.  Unfortunately, we been in this situation and are our guys have continued to come back.  I’m not worried about the guys coming back.  We’ll take a day and then come back to work and get ready for Houston.  I’m very confident in that.  Does this hurt, yes.  It hurts but when you lay everything on the line and you play well for three-and-a-half quarters and our guys played their guts out.  I said for a long time that I was really, really proud especially as thin as we are at this time of the season.  There were a lot of guys that had to play a lot of plays.  Had to play a lot of plays on special teams.  I think we found out yesterday that three of our second team guys on defense weren’t going to be able to come with us.  That set us back on special teams.  That forced everybody to have to play more plays.  Our guys fought their guts out.  At the end of the day, we just weren’t able to execute in the fourth quarter when it really came down to it.  That’s disappointing and we have got to go back and get that corrected.  The coaches and the players and we will.  I’m not worried about how our guys are going to come back from this.  There is no other choice and we have talked about that.  They are not going to quit.  If they were going to quit, you would not have seen what you saw today and I am very confident in that.

Finally, I wondered if there were any good things the Bulls could take from the loss and the Bulls Head Honcho replied, “I thought that we moved the ball really well.  The passing game was there and our O-Line played a phenomenal game.  We got some sacks on D and that helped out the offense.  We did some really good things that we can take into next week and try to do the rest better.

Now, USF gets ready to hit the road again.  This time it’s an 8:00 pm kickoff at Houston.  Meet you around the TV to see how that shakes out.