For the second year in a row, South Florida (1-2) couldn’t capitalize on multiple Maryland (2-1) turnovers, falling 35-17 in a contest where Willie Taggart’s offense struggled mightily. With this game serving as a proverbial measuring stick for how talented or ineffective this Bulls squad is in 2015, several red flags for down the road have been raised as a result of their performance in College Park.
As expected, the Bulls defense set the tone early in the contest, when Devin Abraham secured the first interception off Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe, returning the ball to the four yard line on a 42 yard return. It was there that QB Quinton Flowers was able to hook up with Rodney Adams for a four yard touchdown pass to set the Bulls up with an early 7-0 lead. From that point, fortunes turned sour for South Florida. After a Maryland touchdown and both teams trading punts for the duration of the quarter, the Terrapins would take the lead in the final minute of the first period when WR Taivon Jacobs would burn Lamar Robbins for a 70 yard TD pass to give Maryland a 14-7 lead.
From there, the Bulls offense were doomed by dropped passes, missed opportunities, and a lack of forward movement. A surefire, game-tying Rodney Adams touchdown pass was dropped in stride in the second quarter. A Ryshene Bronson pass tipped right off of his hands and into the hands of Maryland DB Sean Davis, who presence could be felt all day with nine tackles and two interceptions. Flowers, who finished the day 10/19 for only 60 passing yards with one touchdown and interception a piece, was hesitant in the pocket, resulting in being sacked six times on the day. Even when managing to orchestrate a late third quarter touchdown drive to bring the Bulls back to within two scores, Taggart’s ensuing game of quarterback musical chairs kicked in at the worst possible time, as Steven Bench was head scratchingly brought in on the very next drive only to throw a back breaking interception that all but sealed the victory for Maryland.
For the Terps, Caleb Rowe became the third FBS QB this season to win a game despite throwing three interceptions. Rowe finished 21/33 for 297 yards, four touchdowns and three the three aforementioned picks. Coincidentally enough, Rowe’s ability to connect with receivers Levern Jacobs, D.J. Moore, Avery Edwards, and Taivon Jacobs, make big plays, and force opposing defenses into aggressive mistakes is the kind of QB-WR production that USF desperately needed to walk away with this victory.
After the game, Willie Taggart continued to show confidence in his ability to turn things around in 2015 by stating, "I'll tell you now, we're going to have a good football team. When it's all said and done our football team will be pretty good." With such a poor performance against what several considered an equal foe in Maryland, the South Florida staff will indeed have to utilize every possible second of the next two weeks to make adjustments and prepare for their Friday night AAC opener vs. Memphis on October 2nd. The season is at a critical point and could turn south quickly. The Bulls cannot afford to have another showing like Saturday in College Park.