By Matt Manuri
Thursday night left Bulls fans reliving emotions reminiscent of 2011: hope churned to bitter disappointment. The South Florida Bulls were defeated by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 23-13 in the Big East opener after countless mental miscues on both sides of the ball.
The Bulls were manhandled up front losing the time of possession battle for the third straight week. Key turnovers came in the form of three interceptions & a momentum crushing fumble. South Florida’s 5th possession in the 2nd is the perfect example: Sean Price’s fall start & Reiter’s cheap chop block on back-to-back plays leads to a 1st & 29. BJ throws a 58-yard pass to Terrance Mitchell to move the chains. BJ scrambles for 4-yards followed by an incomplete pass to Andre Davis in the endzone. Now 3rd & 6 on the Knights 26, Darrell Williams blows his assignment & Danous Estenor gets beat forcing BJ to flee backwards & make an ill-advised pass (video link) directly into the arms of Brandon Jones for an interception…. that butt catch was not legit, watch the video.
The 3rd quarter turned out to be the ‘icing on the cake’ for the Bulls Thursday night turnover party. First, Terrance Mitchell was striped on a punt return by Marcus Cooper. Later in the 3rd, Daniels gunned a pass through the hands of Demetrius Murray (video link) on a short screen route, sending the ball off Murray’s hands & directly into the hands of Jamal Merrell. With 2:59 remaining in the 4th, Evan Landi let a perfectly placed pass from Daniels (video link) slip through his hands rerouting the ball directly to the chest of Wayne Warren for the fourth turnover of the evening. Here’s a breakdown of time of possession by quarter from Thursday night:
What can the Bulls learn from a wretched early-season performance like this? Everything. The Bulls must regroup & realize the season is far from over. The Big East is known for crowning a Champion with 2 conference losses. Here is a breakdown of Big East Champs since the Bulls joined the conference in 2005:
The season is nowhere near over but if the Bulls expect to contend for the Big East Crown then they must control the time of possession & win the turnover battle every week. The Bulls resiliency will be tested Saturday against Ball State & will serve as an expectations barometer for the highly anticipated week 5 show-down against the #4 Florida State Seminoles.