HOUSTON – Due to mechanical problems with its charter flight, the University of South Florida football team spent nearly seven hours stuck on a plane at Houston’s Hobby Airport following a 35-23 loss against the Houston Cougars on Thursday night.
The USF traveling party couldn’t leave until a new plane became available. It touched down in Tampa at approximately 9:15 Friday morning – or nearly 11 hours following the completion of the Bulls-Cougars game at Reliant Stadium.
USF coach Willie Taggart described it as “a little adversity,’’ but was pleased how his players responded to the inconvenience, especially after a difficult defeat.
“It was nice to hear the flight attendants say how well our players handled it,’’ Taggart said. “They stretched out the best they could. They visited with each other. It was a crazy night, but we made the best of the situation.’’
Taggart said he passed the time by watching some film, taking a brief nap and preparing for some recruiting.
During training camp in Vero Beach, he staged an unannounced 3 a.m. wake-up call, then held a pre-dawn full practice. Taggart’s point: Adversity would hit at various times during the season. The key was how it would be handled by the players.
Junior wide receiver Andre Davis said he spent “90 percent of the time conversing with my brothers and 10 percent sleeping.’’
With USF trailing 28-23, Davis appeared to have caught a go-ahead 27-yard touchdown pass from true freshman quarterback Mike White with 4:06 remaining, but he was called for offensive pass interference. On the next play, White was sacked and lost a fumble, allowing Houston to drive for a tack-on touchdown.
White, the fourth starting quarterback employed by Taggart in eight games, completed 26 of 41 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns, both to junior tight end Mike McFarland. White utilized 10 different receivers. The Bulls were haunted by a school-record 19 penalties for 170 yards.
“The penalties were disappointing,’’ Taggart said. “We had way too many. But our guys played hard. It was the best fight we showed all season. Our offense really improved and that gave us a lot of energy. We’re not there yet, but we’re improving.’’
USF (2-6, 2-2 American Athletic Conference) returns to action on Nov. 16 at home against the Memphis Tigers. The Bulls must defeat their four remaining opponents (Memphis, SMU, UCF, Rutgers) in order to qualify for the program’s first bowl game since 2010.