By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
HOUSTON – Mike White proved the future is bright for the Bulls at quarterback in USF’s 35-23 loss to at Houston on Thursday night.
The true freshman from Fort Lauderdale went 26-for-41 for 311 yards and threw a pair of touchdown passes to tight end Mike McFarland. White set a USF season high in completions and set another season high by connecting with a season-high 10 different receivers before throwing an interception on his final pass.
White’s second touchdown pass to tight end Mike McFarland (Tampa) helped cut USF’s deficit to 28-23 with 11:50 remaining but the Bulls didn’t find the end zone again. USF (2-6, 2-2) committed 19 penalties for 170 yards.
Andre Davis finished with a season-high 134 yards on nine receptions as USF finished with an 18-minute edge in time of possession.
Kicker Marvin Kloss set a new school record with his 13th consecutive made field goal in the third quarter. The redshirt junior from Naples, Fla., made all three of his field goal attempts from 39, 50 and 49 yards out.
Houston (7-1, 4-0) headed into the break with a 21-10 advantage after both teams produced big plays in the opening half of USF’s first-ever game at Reliant Stadium.
Freshman quarterback John O’Korn put the Cougars ahead with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Maxwell with 12:49 remaining in the first quarter after connecting with Deontay Greenberry for a 49-yard strike on Houston’s first play from scrimmage.
A sack by Julius Forte (St. Petersburg) stalled Houston’s second drive and a 41-yard punt return by Chris Dunkley (Pahokee, Fla.) set USF up at the Houston 32 midway through the opening quarter. The Bulls cut the Cougars’ lead to 7-3 with a 39-yard field goal from Kloss with 5:51 to play in the first quarter.
Dunkley’s 41-yarder marked USF’s longest punt return since Terrence Mitchell went 67 yards against Western Kentucky in 2010.
Houston capped off the scoring in the first quarter with a 3-yard shovel pass from O’Korn to running back Kenneth Farrow with 59 seconds remaining in the period. O’Korn led all true freshmen nationally with 19 touchdown passes and an efficiency rating of 159.0 heading into Houston’s third battle with the Bulls. USF took the first two games of the series and handed the Cougars a 32-14 loss in the last meeting on Nov. 23, 2002 in Houston.
USF answered right back with White’s first-career touchdown pass that went 8 yards to McFarland with 11:25 to play in the half. White went 5-for-5 for 67 yards on the drive and found Davis three times to help the junior move up to eighth in career receptions and 10th in receiving yards in the USF record books.
Houston responded with a Ryan Jackson 6-yard touchdown run 1 minute, 26 seconds later that gave the Cougars a 21-10 advantage. It marked the Cougars’ 22nd scoring drive in 2 minutes of less this season.
The Bulls’ defense came up with the game’s first turnover of the game on the opening drive of the second half when Mark Joyce forced a fumble on the USF 4 that was recovered by freshman Johnny Ward in the end zone for a touchback.
USF then cut its deficit to 21-13 with a 50-yard field goal by Kloss with 9:33 to go in the third quarter. Kloss’ 12th straight field goal tied him with Maikon Bonani for consecutive field goals made in school history. Kloss also extended his USF career and single-season record of 50-plus yard field goals made with four.
USF followed with an on-side kick attempt that Houston recovered at the Bulls’ 48 and the Cougars capitalized two plays later with a 48-yard pass from O’Korn to Greenberry 33 seconds after Kloss’ kick. The long catch helped Greenberry pass the 100-yard receiving mark for the fifth time this season.
Kloss extended his streak to 13 straight field goals with a 49-yarder that cut USF’s deficit to 28-16 with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter.
Houston was forced to punt on its next drive and USF crept even closer to the Cougars thanks to a 2-yard touchdown pass from White to McFarland with 11:50 to play. The 14-play drive featured White’s 29-yarder to Davis, who passed the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time this season and the second time in his career.
A fumbled punt recovery by Fidel Montgomery (Marianna, Fla.) put the Bulls at the Houston 27 with 5:42 remaining but mistakes prevented USF from going ahead. An offensive pass interference call negated a 27-yard touchdown catch by Davis and the Bulls turned the ball over at the 50 after White fumbled on a sack.
Houston put the game away with 5-yard touchdown run by Farrow with 1:40 remaining. The Cougars are the only FBS team in the nation to score in every quarter they’ve played this season.
The Bulls have a bye next week and return to action Saturday, Nov. 16 against Memphis at Raymond James Stadium. Game time has yet to be determined.