LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of South Florida’s woeful football season hit its latest low ebb – and a new level of frustration – on Saturday when the Bulls fell 27-25 against the No. 16-ranked Louisville Cardinals at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
For the first time in the program’s 16-year history, USF (2-5, 0-3 Big East Conference) has a five-game losing streak. The Bulls haven’t won since Sept. 8.
After USF scored to take a fourth-quarter lead, Louisville got the winning score on Teddy Bridgewater’s 11-yard pass to Eli Rogers with 1:35 remaining. The drive was aided by a 16-yard completion on third-and-10. The point-after kick was blocked, keeping Louisville’s lead at 27-25 and allowing USF one more shot at victory.
After the Bulls drove to the Louisville 47-yard line, things short-circuited. B.J. Daniels was forced into a desperation long pass on the final play, but he was intercepted by Louisville.
USF pulled within 21-18 with 8:02 remaining on B.J. Daniels’ 13-yard pass to freshman tight end Sean Price (and the drive was helped along with a 17-yard reception from Price on fourth-and-8). A defensive penalty on the PAT pushed it ahead to the 1-yard line, where USF went for the two-pointer, a Demetrius Murray successful run.
Then the Bulls took the lead, 25-21, on Daniels’ 12-yard alley-oop pass to Andre Davis in the left corner with 3:09 remaining.
Meanwhile, Louisville (7-0, 2-0) took control with a pair of second-quarter touchdowns, then dodged a major bullet when USF, trailing 21-10, failed to score from the Cardinal 1-yard line with three cracks at it in the third quarter.
Lindsey Lamar had scored on an apparent 5-yard touchdown run, but the play was overturned when replay indicated Lamar’s right knee touched the turf before the ball crossed the goal line’s plane.
With a full-house backfield, first Daniels was stood up on second down. Then Murray went for no gain. After a defensive offsides, which essentially moved the ball 1 inch closer, Daniels again was denied on fourth down.
Overall, USF’s defense had no answer through most of the game for Louisville sophomore quarterback Bridgewater, who completed his first 11 pass attempts.
Louisville led 14-3 at halftime, but USF answered with a nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive, scoring on Daniels’ 12-yard pass to Davis in the right corner, making it 14-10.
The Cardinals quickly countered with a 75-yard scoring drive. Bridgewater capped it with a 21-yard scoring pass to Damian Copeland, putting the Cardinals up 21-10.
After USF began the scoring with Maikon Bonani’s 36-yard field goal on the opening drive, Louisville took a 7-3 lead with Senorise Perry’s 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal on the second play of the second quarter.
USF seemed poised to break back, but Lamar’s 19-yard run to the Louisville 39-yard line was negated by a holding penalty on senior guard Danous Estenor. That backed USF to its 32, where the drive fizzled.
Louisville extended its lead to 14-3 on Jeremy Wright’s 11-yard run with 3:38 remaining in the half. It capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive that showcased Bridgewater’s versatile talents.
Scrambling away from USF pressure, Bridgewater completed passes of 8, 16 and 6 yards on the drive, while also running for gains of 24 and 17 yards.
In the first half, Bridgewater was 11-for-11 for 125 yards, while rushing for 48 yards.
USF had some nice moments on its opening drive, particularly a 28-yard pass from Daniels to Derrick Hopkins. But the drive stalled after USF had a first down at the Louisville 24-yard line. On third-and-5, Daniels threw low for receiver Andre Davis and the Bulls settled for Bonani’s field goal.
Another highlight was USF forcing its first turnover since Sept. 13. Louisville receiver Nick Heuser had a 12-yard reception, but it was stripped by Ernie Tabuteau and recovered from James Hamilton. USF went three-and-out and couldn’t take advantage.
Late in the half, the Bulls drove to the Louisville 31. But Daniels, handling the ball carelessly, stepped up in the pocket, right into a sack. The ball was stripped and recovered by Louisville’s Lou Mauldin.
The Bulls face the Syracuse Orange (3-4, 2-1) next Saturday night at 7 in USF’s homecoming game.