TAMPA – USF was determined to send its seniors off with a win, but
the Pittsburgh defense had other plans Saturday night in the Bulls’ season
The Bulls’ defense held up well despite the offense turning
the ball over four times in a 27-3 loss before an announced crowd of 35,141 at
Raymond James Stadium. USF (3-9) managed 117 yards of total offense and was
forced to take to the air often while the Bulls came up with 8 rushing yards.
“It made for a very long night when you go against the No. 2
pass defense in the league, as good as they are, and you can’t run the ball.
It’s going to be a long day,” USF head coach Skip Holtz said.
Senior Sam Barrington promised before the game that he would
leave everything he had on the field and his stat line showed that the
linebacker came to play. Barrington posted a career-high two sacks and seven
tackles, and he finished his USF career eighth all-time in tackles with 258.
“I would have taken no tackles and a win any day,”
The Bulls as a whole ended up with four sacks and got one
from senior Kayvon Webster. The senior finished with the team lead in tackles
(82) after registering seven stops and a forcing fumble against the Panthers.
“I thought our defense really played well, but I don’t think
our offense did,” Holtz said.
Pittsburgh grabbed a 7-0 lead midway through the first
quarter after making a heads-up play on defense deep in Bulls territory. Jason
Hendricks intercepted a pass off the hands of Andre Davis to set the Panthers
up at the USF 21 and Ray Graham rushed for a 1-yard touchdown eight plays
Specials teams gave USF a needed lift on the ensuing kickoff
when Marcus Shaw posted 48-yard return, but the Bulls failed to cash in on the
opportunity. USF drove up to the Pitt 6 when linebacker Todd Thomas stepped in
front of a Matt Floyd pass and got the Panthers close to midfield with a
33-yard return. Pitt did not capitalize on the turnover, however, thanks in
part to a strip sack by Webster on third down that resulted in a 29-yard loss
once the Panthers fell on the fumble.
The Pitt defense got its third turnover late in the first
quarter when Shayne Hale sacked Floyd and recovered the fumble at the Bulls’
24-yard line. USF held the Panthers to a 25-yard field goal by Kevin Harper
less than 2 minutes into the second quarter.
Pitt had one more shot inside the USF 10 in the closing
seconds of the half and had to settle for a 27-yard field goal after an impressive
stand by the USF defense. Graham was stuffed on a second-and-goal from the 3
and Barrington got the Panthers moving in the opposite direction by sacking
Tino Sunseri for an 8-yard loss.
Barrington had two sacks and five tackles at the half after
helping the Bulls limit Pitt to 137 yards of total offense.
Pitt (6-6) padded its lead to 20-0 with 8:42 left in the
third quarter after Graham added another 1-yard scoring run and got over the
1,000-yard mark for the season. Ronald Jones set the Panthers up on the USF 31
to start the drive after returning a punt for 39 yards.
K’Waun Williams came down with Floyd’s third interception at
the 50 about a minute after Graham’s score and Pitt went ahead, 27-0, with a
2-yard touchdown reception by J.P. Holtz with 3:46 remaining in the quarter.
Floyd finished 12-for-25 for 93 yards.
“We just couldn’t get anything going from an offensive
standpoint. It made for a long night,” Holtz said.
Senior Maikon Bonani added to his already impressive college
resume by making a 25-yard field goal to get the Bulls on the scoreboard with
9:41 remaining in the game.
Other seniors honored Saturday night were B.J. Daniels, Lindsey Lamar, Demetris
Murray, Cory Grissom, Mike Lanaris, Evan Landi, George Baker, Chris Breit,
David Aristil, Justin Brockhaus-Kann, Damien Edwards, Danous Estenor, Spencer
Cavalieri, Jeff Hawkins, Kalin Hall, Colton Hudson, Mike Jeune, Jon Lejiste,
Victor Marc, Mark Popek, Andreas Shields and Ernie Tabuteau.
“You certainly would
like for them to go out with a win under their belts,” Holtz said.