USF still can't solve Big East

After a very solid start, the USF's football season looks eerily similar. Four straight opening wins, a national ranking in both polls, followed by a loss in the Big East opener in front of a national audience

INSIDE SLANT

South Florida's season has taken on a hauntingly familiar look to it -- four opening wins followed by a loss in the Big East opener.

The Bulls' defeat at Pittsburgh marked the second straight year and third time in the last four seasons they have begun league play with a loss.

But coach Skip Holtz isn't going to write off 2011 just yet.

"There are a lot of veterans on this team who have already been faced with this exact situation," Holtz said after his team's second-half collapse led to a 44-17 drubbing, the worst loss in his brief tenure at USF. "There has not been a Big East team that has been undefeated in a while.

"We still have the rest of the season to go and were not hanging our heads low by any means. A lot of us have been here before, and we have seen this happen."

The 44 points the Bulls allowed were the most they have given up since Holtz took over the program in 2010. It was their worst loss since a 41-14 defeat at Pitt in 2009.

Holtz hopes to use the loss as motivation as the Bulls head into the first of two open dates on their schedule. Their next game is at Big East rival Connecticut on Oct. 15.

"We're definitely going to come out harder next time and make sure we are successful," Holtz said. "At the end of the day this could be a blessing in disguise. This loss could be an extra motivating factor for the rest of the season."

NOTES, QUOTES

--USF topped the 200-yard mark in rushing for the third consecutive game with a 202-yard effort in the loss at Pitt. TBs Darrell Scott (76) and Demetris Murray (67) led the way with a combined 22 carries for 145, and QB B.J. Daniels added 43 yards on 14 runs despite losing 18 yards on two sacks.

--The Bulls kept alive their streak of scoring first in every game this season when LB Mike Jeune recovered a fumble on Pitt's opening drive and the Bulls marched 52 yards in nine plays on the ensuing series. Daniels capped the drive by scoring from 12 yards out with 8:46 left in the first quarter.

--USF's 425 yards in total offense marked the fourth time in five games that the Bulls have topped the 400-yard mark rushing and passing in a game. The exception was in the opener when they had only 254 yards in total offense in the win over Notre Dame.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Stephen Bravo-Brown -- The former walk-on had only one catch for seven yards but was targeted on several key plays, especially in the second half at Pitt. He will be needed to take some of the defensive pressure off WR Sterling Griffin if A.J. Love is not 100 percent.

LOOKING GOOD: The running game continues to produce yards. The Bulls ran for 202 at Pittsburgh, giving them an average of 281 a game over their last three outings. They have a nice one-two punch with in RBs Darrell Scott, a power back, and Demetris Murray, who has breakaway speed.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The run defense was gashed for 307 yards at Pitt. The Bulls went into the game holding foes to just 82 yards rushing a game but gave up 226 to Pitt RB Ray Graham alone. Pitt's hurry-up style kept the Bulls off balance all night.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have to get better. We have to do better. That wasn't our style of football. That wasn't USF defense that was out there tonight." -- Junior LB Sam Barrington, on the disappointment of the play of the defense in USF's loss at Pittsburgh.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES:

--Sophomore WR Sterling Griffin continued his comeback from the ankle injury that sidelined him for all of 2010 with five catches for 109 yards in the loss at Pittsburgh. He became USF's first 100-yard receiver under second-year coach Skip Holtz. He has 27 receptions for 357 yards for the year.

--Freshman DT Elkino Watson led all lineman and was fourth overall in tackles at Pitt with eight stops. He had two for 11 yards in losses, including his first sack of the year.

--Junior QB B.J. Daniels, who came into the game with a 66.1 completion percentage for the season, was only 18-of-36 against Pitt for 223 yards. He did not have a touchdown pass in a game for the first time this season.

--Junior LB Mike Lanaris led the Bulls in tackles by recording a career-high 13. Among them was his first sack of the year.

ROSTER REPORT

--Senior WR A.J. Love, who is coming off a knee injury that kept him out of the 2010 season, injured his ankle against Pitt. With an open date coming up, the extra week gives him a better chance of being available for USF's next game, but there is no timetable for his return.

--Sophomore LB DeDe Lattimore and junior RB Demetris Murray both saw action on USF's kickoff team.

--Senior CB Quenton Washington played at Pitt after missing the win over Texas-El Paso the previous week. He had two tackles, one for a loss, and broke up two passes.

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