Missed Opportunities Doom Bulls in Shutout

In a meeting with their I-4 rivals UCF, USF could not capitalize on several opportunities and ended their season with their first shutout loss in five years.

If one game could encapsulate USF’s (4-8, 3-5) entire 2014 campaign, their disappointing 16-0 shutout loss at the hands of archrival UCF (8-3, 6-1) would serve as just that. An array of missed opportunities would doom the Bulls to their first home shutout loss in school history and leave many around Tampa wondering the prospects of the future for USF football.

The first half was marked by the USF defense’s inability to stay off the field. The Bulls’ yearlong struggles in preventing 3rd down conversions manifested itself again on Friday afternoon as the Knights were able to convert seven out of ten tries in the first half, four of which came on a grinding 17 play, 80 yard drive that resulted in a seven yard Justin Holman to Breshad Perriman TD. A twenty-one yard scamper by senior Rannell Hall on UCF’s following possession would secure a nice 14-0 lead for the Knights heading into the half. UCF would score their only points in the 2nd half on a Mike White intentional grounding penalty in the end zone that would result in a safety.

Meanwhile, the second half saw a different USF defense that was able to do something it had not accomplished in three contests, that being the forcing of turnovers. Junior Demetrius Hill recovered a fumble while team leading tackler Jamie Byrd came up with an interception that would put the Bulls in good position to generate momentum and turn the tide of the game.

Despite the Knights’ offense being somewhat neutralized, with UCF only gaining 295 total yards throughout the entire game, USF could not capitalize on the opportunities given to them to score and make the Corridor Clash a tight contest. A 2nd quarter Marvin Kloss field goal that clanked off the uprights would set the tone for the Bulls misfortunates throughout the afternoon. A fake field goal attempt in the 3rd quarter misfired and set the Bulls’ efforts back. Even a 1st and goal opportunity after a 27 yard Steven Bench pass to Sean Price was quickly turned into a 4th and 22 situation with a sack and a personal foul penalty. Like so many other contests during this season, USF’s inability to generate a consistent offense cost them an eighth game of the season and their second consecutive loss to UCF.

Heading into the contest, USF athletics generated a full #BeatUCF hype campaign throughout the week, all in an effort to energize and bring excitement to an apathetic fan base that needed something to be excited about towards the end of the season. By the middle of the fourth quarter, several Bulls fans bolted for the exits having seen enough, leaving the black and gold clad UCF fans to take over Raymond James Stadium and engage in “U-C-F” chants until the final whistle. Knights head coach George O’Leary even described the Ray Jay crowd as “almost like a home game.”

The tables have turned for both of these programs. UCF is one win away from earning a share of their second straight AAC championship while the Bulls enter the winter months mired in their fourth straight losing season. Coach Willie Taggart has a full off season of recruiting and evaluating to do in order to figure out how to get USF back to a bowl game in 2015 and potential secure his tenure in Tampa.

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