The Owls defense tallied up two defensive touchdowns Saturday evening, including a mishandled hand off by Senior quarterback Bobby Eveld with just less than 5 minutes into the contest, which FAU's Cory Henry gathered up and took in for a 10 yard touchdown return to give the initial lead. D'Joun Smith also chipped into the defensive fun for the Carl Pelini's team, returning a Bobby Eveld interception 75 yards for a score with just over 3 minutes left in the game.
"Offensively we just continue to turn the ball over. I've never been a part of something like this," Willie Taggart said. "Not only are we turning the ball over, but we're turning it over for points. When you turn it over on your side of the field it's not good. It's frustrating when you see it three times in a row."
After the botched handoff by Bobby Eveld, Coach Taggart inserted a fresh face under center, inserting Penn State transfer, Steven Bench, who finished 8-22, while adding 134 yards. The Penn State transfer catered a temporary gleam on his first two possessions.
Bench's first-career completion as a Bull went 25 yards to fullback Ryan Eppes, who took it to the house for his first career touchdown with 3:36 remaining in the first quarter. Prior to the touchdown strike to Eppes, Senior K Marvis Kloss booted a 50-yard field goal, the longest of his career and was only the sixth one made of 50 yards or more in program history.
Shortly after the first two offensive drives by the Bulls, the landslide took off and South Florida's momentum diminished.
Senior running back Marcus Shaw took a Bench handoff for 41 yards up the seam and provided South Florida with 1st and goal, arranging four opportunities to punch it in over the goal line. After failed opportunities on the first three plays, Shaw was driven backward for a 6-yard loss on fourth-down. Coach Taggart acknowledged the opportunity for a momentum booster on that drive.
"It was huge," Taggart said. "I thought it would've been big for us to get in there and try to establish some kind of identity. Again, our offense this entire year so far just hasn't stepped up when we had opportunities."
After a satisfying performance by the Bulls defense, the offense couldn't keep pace with them, spoiling a strong effort by USF, especially true freshman linebacker, Nigel Harris, who started his first career contest. The former Hillsborough standout was remarkable, posting a team high of 12 tackles, 1 TFL and a tipped pass that resulted into a DeDe Lattimore interception that set up the Ryan Eppes touchdown.
Taggart acknowledged the great effort by Chuck Bresnahan's squad, who gave up 228 total yards, but pounded the point on the inability of his offense not being to score points to help them out.
"We have to take care of the football. I thought our defense played well and I thought our special teams played well," Taggart said. "Again, it's our offense. We have to find a way to create some offense and create some points. We're not doing that right now."
Despite the negative showing by the offense, there's been a lone star on that side ball all season, senior running back, Marcus Shaw. Shaw registered his second-career 100-yard rushing game by halftime when he had 108 yards on 14 carries and polished off the contest with 159 yards on 22 carries.
"The one good thing we have going offensively is Marcus Shaw. We have to build off of him. He needs help," Taggart said. "Don't get me wrong, the offensive line is a big reason why Marcus has had success, but he needs help. There are other guys on the field, other playmakers that have to make plays." Florida Atlantic retook the lead shortly before the first half came to a close. Jaquez Johnson completed an 80 yard drive that resulted with Johnson himself, tucking it in for a score from 4 yards out.
The only entertainment the Bulls fans relished from halftime and on was South Florida's band for the halftime show because the play of the team never enhanced.
Soon after halftime ended, Steven Bench was hit from his blindside at the Bulls 39 yard line, which resulted in a fumble and recovery for Florida Atlantic. Owls running back, Jonathan Wallace, polished off a brief drive with a 1 yard touchdown run with 1:42 left in the third quarter.
After the disastrous drive that resulted in a Owls touchdown, Bobby Eveld was inserted back under center for Willie Taggart and accounted for a touchdown...for the Owls. Smith took Eveld's interception 75 yards for a touchdown to seal the game, giving Florida Atlantic their first win against South Florida.
"It's been three bad ballgames for us. It's frustrating, but we're not quitting," Taggart said. "We have nine ballgames to go and our goal is still in front of us. We want to win the American (Athletic) Conference and it's still in front of us. We've got some work to do."