(Tampa, FL) USF’s woes continued before a sparse crowd at Raymond James Stadium dropping a 17-7 decision to Temple. The Bulls gave up 9 sacks and committed some bad penalties in crucial moments to drop their record 4-5 and 2-3 in the American Athletic Conference.
USF kept Temple (6-3, 3-2) scoreless for most of the first half and totaled its 21st takeaway of the season with an interception by Bentlee Sanders on the opening drive of the third quarter with the Owls clinging to a 7-0 lead. Sanders added a sack on a night in which USF totaled eight tackles for loss, forced four punts and two turnovers on downs.
USF cut its deficit to 14-7 with a 14-yard touchdown reception by sophomore Bryce Miller late in the third quarter. Two turnovers and a key drop slowed the Bulls’ progress on offense after they put up 525 yards and 45 points the last time out at East Carolina on Oct. 26.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud completed 23 of 38 passes for a career-high 225 yards and a touchdown in his seventh straight start. Senior tight end Mitchell Wilcox set up USF’s lone touchdown with a 25-yard catch and had a team-best 55 yards on a season-high five receptions.
USF’s defense dominated early in the sixth meeting between the schools before Temple used a late touchdown to take a 7-0 lead into the break. The Bulls’ defense gave up just 246 yards prior to Temple’s final drive and saw the Owls finish with 320 yards.
A big stop on Temple’s first drive set the tone for a shutout performance by the Bulls in the opening quarter. Sophomore Tyrone Barber made a clutch tackle for a loss of 2 yards with the Owls facing fourth-and-1 at the Bulls’ 7-yard line.
USF followed that up by forcing a pair of three-and-outs and sophomore linebacker Dwayne Boyles (Miami) ended the second sequence with a sack early in the second quarter. Senior end Darius Slade crashed through the line and posted his first sack as a Bull to halt Temple’s fourth drive that covered 20 yards on four plays.
Temple’s Jager Gardner made the biggest offensive play of the half with a 57-yard run on third-and-1 down to the USF 2. Gardner would finish with 133 yards on 25 carries on the night. Three plays later, Todd Centeio threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Yeboah with just 1:29 to go before the break.
USF’s defense kept it a one-score game on the opening drive of the second half thanks to Sanders’ first-career interception at the Bulls’ 10-yard line. Sanders’ second sack of the season stalled Temple’s very next drive.
Temple took a 14-0 lead on a 39-yard fumble recovery returned for a touchdown by Sam Franklin with 4:45 to play in the third quarter.
The Bulls bounced right back on their next drive with a 14-yard touchdown reception by Miller. Freshman Xavier Weaver (Orlando) sparked the seven-play, 90-yard sequence with a career high 40-yard reception. Wilcox set up the score with a leaping 25-yard catch that got the Bulls to the Temple 14. McCloud went 3-for-3 for 79 yards on the drive that kept the Bulls close with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter.
Down 17-7 in the fourth quarter, USF was at midfield and nearly got into scoring position on an accurate deep pass by McCloud that was dropped. The Bulls were set to get the ball back after a Temple three-and-out, but a roughing the kicker penalty extended the Owls’ drive that ended at the USF 9 with 2:06 remaining.
“This is a tough one, a hard one to swallow”, said USF Head Coach Charlie Strong. “We had opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them. You look at the first drive, we’re driving the football, then end up turning the ball over. We could’ve got a score there and the defense played well up until right before half, giving up the drive where they scored on us. When the opportunity’s there, you have to take advantage of it, and we didn’t take advantage of it. Playing against a good football team, you can’t go out there and make mistakes – every mistake cost us.”
The Bulls continue a three-game homestand Saturday, Nov. 16 against No. 17 Cincinnati before the program’s Senior Day game against No. 19 Memphis on Saturday, Nov. 23. Kickoff times for both games have yet to be announced.
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