TAMPA (Oct, 9, 2010) – With the college football prognosticators deeming the BIG EAST Conference as potentially a crazy wide open race this year, the University of South Florida and Syracuse football teams proved them correct as the Orange handed USF a tough 13-9 loss in the conference opener for both schools at Raymond James Stadium today.
After back-and-forth play for most of the first quarter, USF managed to get on the board first just under two minutes into the second half when Maikon Bonani capped off an eight play, 48-yard drive with a 31-yard field goal to make the score 3-0 with 13:20 left in the first half.
The Orange (4-1, 1-0 BIG EAST) would retaliate immediately following the Bulls' score with a Ross Krautman 35-yard field goal of his own following a 10-play, 55-yard drive.
USF (3-2, 0-1 BIG EAST) was able to move the ball getting to the Syracuse 31, 37 and 24 yard lines in the first 30 minutes, however the Bulls weren't able to punch the ball into the end zone as both teams went into the locker room deadlocked at 3-3.
The second half would see the Orange come out of the locker room and go down the field using 11 plays over 49 yards, however were only able to settle for another Krautman field goal, this time a 41-yard strike with 10:26 left in the third quarter to take their first lead of the game, 6-3.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Bulls would get the big play that it would need and the momentum change that it was hoping to take advantage of, when Lindsey Lamar took the ball on the USF six yard line and proceed to return it 94 yards for a touchdown, and a share of the third longest kick return for a score in school history. Bonani would have his extra point blocked, however, the Bulls would get the lead back, 9-6, just 13 seconds later.
Syracuse would then put together its longest scoring drive of the season - and the longest scoring drive by a USF opponent this year - going 98 yards on 14 plays and using up 6:34 as the drive was capped off by a three-yard touchdown pass from Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib to Marcus Sales with 6:34 left in the game.
The Bulls would get two more opportunities in the final six-plus minutes to get into the end zone; however the first would see USF go three-and-out, and their final series would use up just 38 yards on eight plays, and end with a B.J. Daniels incompletion to receiver Evan Landi with just over a minute left in the contest.
On the afternoon, USF would muster just 219 yards in total offense on 60 plays, including 124 yards through the air. The Bulls were led on the offensive end of the ball by Dontavia Bogan who was Daniels' main target catching four passes for 67 yards, including a long of 32 yards in the first quarter that would help set up the Bonani's field goal.
On the ground, USF got 58 of its 95 rushing yards from Moise Plancher on 15 carries, and 30 yards on seven carries from Demetris Murray.
One of the bright spots of the day was found on the defensive side with the play of defensive end Craig Marshall and defensive back Kayvon Webster. The defensive tandem each recorded eight tackles on the day and kept the Bulls in the game by making things tough for the Syracuse offense.
In addition to his eight tackles, Marshall would also log a career-high three sacks for a loss of 22 yards for the Orange. His three sacks are tied for the third most in a single game for USF, and it is also a school record for sacks in a BIG EAST Conference game, surpassing Chris Robinson's 2.5 against Syracuse on Nov. 11, 2006.
The Bulls will have a short week as they get back to work on Thursday, Oct. 14 when they travel to West Virginia to face the Mountaineers (7:30 p.m., ESPN).