Leading 17-3 after scoring early in the fourth quarter, the Bulls gave up a touchdown on a 98-yard kickoff return, couldn't make a stop on a fourth-and-nine situation on the drive that led to the Knights' tying touchdown, then missed what looked to be a chip-shot field goal from 27 yards out on the final play of regulation.
In overtime, the Bulls turned the ball over on an interception on their only possession, then saw the Knights kick the deciding field goal from 37 yards out.
Thus, the Bulls wasted one of their best defensive efforts of the season.
"You rush for 221 yards and hold other team to minus-7 rushing," coach Skip Holtz said, "you're not supposed to lose those games."
The loss was the fourth in a row for the Bulls, all in Big East play. After winning their first four, they are now 4-4 and must win at least two of the final four games to reach the six-win level for bowl eligibility for a seventh straight season.
--Special teams play hurt USF's chances against Rutgers even before PK Maikon Bonani's missed field goal at the end of regulation. Bonani also missed a 47-yard try in the third quarter. The Bulls' Justin Brockhaus-Kann averaged less than 33 yards on nine punts to Rutgers' nearly 44 average on eight, a big swing in field position. Victor Mark tried to field a bouncing punt inside his 20-yard line, and Rutgers recovered, which led to a field goal. After scoring with 7:25 left in the game to go up 17-3, USF failed to cover the kickoff and Rutgers' Jeremy Deering returned it 98 yards to get the gap back down to seven points.
--The four-game losing streak for the Bulls is the longest skid in the program's 15-year history.
--With four conference losses and only three league games remaining, the Bulls are assured of a losing Big East record for the fourth consecutive season. They were 4-3 in each of their first three years in the league (2005-07).
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Victor Mark -- Mark made a critical error trying to field a rolling punt, but is pretty much USF's best option to break a big return with Terrence Mitchell out injured. Mark has good speed and will be a factor in the receiving game as well. He made his second touchdown reception of the season among his three catches against Rutgers.
LOOKING GOOD: The Bulls ground out 221 yards against Rutgers with RB Darrell Scott getting an even 100 on 19 carries and QB B.J. Daniels running for 64 more despite losing 22 yards on sacks. The defense had five sacks with the 33 yards in lost yardage putting the Knights in the hole for the night at minus-7 rushing.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Errors in special teams obviously were a killer, both in kicking (poor punting, missed field goals) and returns (a fumble that led to a Rutgers field goal).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We wouldn't trade him for any kicker in the world." -- Junior LB Sam Barrington, on PK Maikon Bonani, whose missed field goal try from only 27 yards out could have won beaten Rutgers in regulation.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--USF junior QB B.J. Daniels was only 14-of-34 passing for 160 yards against Rutgers, but came up big in USF's final drive in regulation, hooking up with RB Demetris Murray on a 34-yard play and rushing 30 yards down to Rutgers' 10-yard line to set up field goal try. He was intercepted on the third play of overtime, but the pass deflected off TE Evan Landi.
--Sophomore LB DeDe Lattimore led the defense with 11 tackles, including three for losses. He was credited with 2.5 sacks.
--Sophomore DE Ryne Giddens continued his recent surge with nine tackles at Rutgers. He was credited with 1.5 sacks among his 2.5 tackles for loss.
--Freshman WR Andre Davis made his first career start; He had one catch on the night for 16 yards.
--Redshirt freshman Deonte Welch made is second consecutive start and led the Bulls with four receptions. They gained only 37 yards, second to sophomore RB Demetris Murray's 45 yards on two receptions.
--Redshirt freshman LB Reshard Cliett did not make the trip because of his injured ankle.Click here to share your thoughts with other USF fans!