TAMPA — Just when they seemed to have a shot at mounting a productive offense, the University of South Florida Bulls went back to firing blanks on Saturday night.
Penalties. Turnovers. Missed field goals.
It all went wrong for the Bulls in an uninspiring 23-10 loss against the Memphis Tigers at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bulls (2-7, 2-3 American Athletic Conference) eliminated themselves from postseason consideration and extended the program's bowl drought to three straight seasons. Memphis (3-6, 1-4) won its first AAC game.
USF's defense generally played well, giving up just 242 yards, even though it surrendered a putaway drive, punctuated by Brandon Hayes' 5-yard run with 4:09 remaining.
USF's offense, which has produced nine touchdowns in nine games, did not.
There was a lost fumble at the goal line. There were two missed field goals by junior place-kicker Marvin Kloss, who had made a school-record 13 consecutive attempts. There were a handful of penalty flags — nine infractions in all for 70 yards — that erased positive plays.
Had it not been for freshman Mike White's 32-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis with 46 seconds remaining, the Bulls would've had their fifth game this season without an offensive touchdown.
With White making his second start, the Bulls had a smattering of opportunities, but failed to capitalize. White was 18 of 33 for 198 yards and four interceptions. His lowlights included a carelessly thrown ball returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Memphis defensive back Bobby McCain with 1:35 remaining. It was his second pick of the night.
White had a few decent moments.
In the second quarter, following a 37-yard punt return by freshman Hassan Childs, White flicked a backward pass to wide receiver Chris Dunkley, who raced down the sideline and was credited with a 28-yard rush to the Memphis 4-yard line. Then senior running back Marcus Shaw bulled ahead for 3 yard, just short of the end zone.
Converted offensive lineman Lawrence Martin was brought in as the lead blocker for Shaw on second-and-goal from the Memphis 1.
USF went for the unexpected, handing it to the 6-foot-3, 316-pound Martin on a misdirection play. Martin couldn't secure the ball and it popped loose into the end zone, where Memphis recovered for a touchback.
The Bulls, trailing 6-0 at halftime, returned with some inspiration. Shaw got things going with a 36-yard run, his longest since September. Shaw made another big play with a 12-yard reception on third-and-6, a play made even bigger by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Memphis.
But with first down at the Memphis 14-yard line, USF bogged down. Shaw was stuffed for a 1-yard loss. White hit tight end Sean Price, who stumbled on a 5-yard gain and could've had more. Then White found no one open and threw it out of the end zone.
Kloss put USF on the board with a 28-yard field goal.
The Bulls never had a good chance after that. Its next possession began at the 1-yard line and a pair of third-down conversions helped wedge it to midfield, but USF had to punt.
Memphis opened the scoring on Jake Elliottt's 19-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Nearing the end of the half, Memphis got good field position at its 37-yard line when Kloss was wide left on a 55-yard field-goal attempt.
The Tigers raced into USF territory on Dorola Dorceus' 26-yard run. On third-and-11 from USF's 38-yard line, Hayes was stuffed for a 1-yard loss by Luke Sager. Memphis was called for holding, which would've backed up the Tigers, but USF declined the penalty, anticipating a punt.
Instead, Memphis sent in Elliott for a 56-yard field goal attempt.
It was struck well, but hit the crossbar. It popped straight up in the air, then fell through.
It was that kind of night for Memphis.
It was that kind of night for USF.