The University of South Florida found itself trailing Rutgers 13-6 late in the third quarter of Saturday night's game, but the Bulls' defense wasn't to blame.
The Bulls' offense was the culprit, repeatedly giving the ball away carelessly. Rutgers' first 13 points of the game were all results of possessions started by a USF turnover.
The trouble started late in the second quarter with USF up 6-0. Facing a third-and-6 deep in Rutgers territory, quarterback B.J. Daniels was flushed out of the pocket by the Scarlet Knights' pass rush. Instead of forcefully throwing the ball away and giving the Bulls a field-goal chance, Daniels floated a lazy ball that stayed inbounds and was intercepted by Rutgers' Brandon Jones.
Rutgers would score on a field goal as a result of that drive.
In the season-opening win over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, USF finished with a minus-2 turnover ratio.
Holtz made it a talking point to reduce turnovers.
"The turnovers we've got to eliminate," he said. "We finished minus-2 on the day. You're not going to win a lot of football games finishing minus-2. We've got to get better with that football, with the emphasis we've made on it."
The second half only made the turnover issue worse.
On the first possession of the third quarter, USF's defense forced a three-and-out, but punt returner Terrence Mitchell had the ball ripped out of his hands by Marcus Cooper, setting the Scarlet Knights up on the Bulls' 37-yard line. Rutgers would make another field goal on the ensuing possession.
Daniels threw two more interceptions in the third quarter, though neither was really his fault.
A dump pass to running back Demetris Murray bounced off Murray's hands and into the waiting hands of Jamal Merrell on the Bulls' 30-yard line. Rutgers scored the go-ahead touchdown seven plays later.
When it seemed like USF had built a tying drive, the turnover bug bit again. On second-and-goal on the Rutgers 5-yard line, a Daniels pass bounced off the hands of tight end Evan Landi and was caught in the end zone by Rutgers' Wayne Warren.
USF also survived two near-giveaways — a Daniels fumble that Murray pounced on, and an apparent interception on a deep ball to Andre Davis that was ruled a USF catch and was not reviewable.
Despite a minus-4 turnover ratio, the Bulls found a way back into the game in the fourth quarter.