Being viewed as favorites over the struggling, young Golden Hurricane squad, the first half was disastrous for the Bulls. A telegraphed Mike White pass was picked off and returned for a 46 yard TD by Austin McDaniel on just the second play of the game.
After Marlon Mack later responded with a 34 yard TD run to tie the game, Tulsa would take complete control in the first half, something very uncharacteristic of a team that had only produced fourteen 1st half points for the entire season.
Quarterback Dane Evans was able to establish a rhythm with breakout WR Keevan Lucas, who finished the day with 11 rec, 160 yards, and 1 TD, while RB Zack Langer smashed intro Bulls defenders for over 100 rushing yards. A flurry of mistakes, including a Kennard Swanson 2nd quarter fumble landed the Bulls in a 27-7 hole heading into the half.
Yet, the poise and confidence USF displayed coming out of the locker room shows a team that is maturing and improving, as the second half was a completely different story. The comeback kicked off immediately when Mack, the AAC’s leading rusher, broke off a 54 yard TD run to cut into the Tulsa lead. Mack continues to be an imposing force on opposing defenses as he ended the day with 130 yards on 19 carries and 2 touchdowns.
But without a doubt, the star difference maker for the Bulls was senior Andre Davis, who continues to solidify himself as statistically the best wide receiver in USF history with 154 yards on 6 receptions. Davis shined for three second half TDs including an 85 yard bomb from Mike White to give the Bulls the lead with 6:13 left in the game.
This game serves a proverbial turning point for the Bulls. Not just for the season, but for Willie Taggart’s entire tenure as the head man at USF. Previous efforts would see the Bulls fall to “mental fatigue” as Taggart described throughout the week.
But Saturday’s comeback indicates a team who can overcome adversity and put it together at the right opportune moments. As Athletic Director Mark Harlan tweeted out after the game, “Belief and staying together is a special thing.”
The Bulls can’t dwell on this win for too long, as next Friday sees them back on the road against Cincinnati (2-3, 0-1), a game they will start practicing and preparing for on Sunday.