Bulls Bowl Hopes Dashed After Loss at Memphis

Despite improving play of QB Mike White, USF dropped their seventh game of the season, killing all hopes of reaching a bowl in 2014.

Coming off a last second victory over SMU the previous week, Taggart once again left the QB competition open for the week, leading many to speculate who would make the start come kick off in the Liberty Bowl. With true freshmen Quinton Flowers arriving to Memphis just before game time after attending the memorial service for his slain half-brother in Miami Saturday morning, it was Mike White who got the nod to make the start at QB.

White and the USF offense continued to show their steady progression since the disappointing game against Cincinnati, moving the ball down the field on several first half drives and keeping the game close early on. AAC leading rusher Marlon Mack achieved a career milestone during the contest, eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards on the season, just the fourth player in USF history to accomplish this feat. He would finish the game with 102 yards on 16 carries, including a 75 yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter that pulled the Bulls to within four points of the Tigers.

However, the stellar play of Memphis QB Paxton Lynch and RB Brandon Hayes left the Bulls defense looking for answers throughout the entire game. Lynch’s 276 combined yards through the air/ground and 4 total TD’s provided the spark for the Tigers offense, while Hayes’ 189 yards on the ground and several broken tackles battered Chuck Bresnahan’s unit throughout the game.

An untimely turnover in the 3rd quarter would prove fatal for the Bulls’ efforts and ultimately seal their bowl fate. With Mike White shaken up and out of action briefly, an end around play from Quinton Flowers to Marlon Mack resulted in a lost fumble in Memphis’ red zone. The ensuing Tiger drive resulted in a field goal and clinched the victory for Memphis, who have now won five straight and are at this point in the driver’s seat to win the conference. With White leaving the game with a minor ankle injury later, Steven Bench took the field during garbage time over Flowers, raising even more questions of Taggart’s late season QB carousel.

With the opportunity for a postseason bowl game now out of the picture, the Bulls will turn their focus to a home showdown with their bitter I-4 rivals UCF (7-3, 5-1) to close out their 2014 campaign.

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