USF (5-3, 1-2) managed just 219 total yards on offense with freshman quarterback Matt Grothe limited to a season-low 47 passing yards
After a first quarter safety set up by a Cincinnati (4-4, 1-2) punt that pinned the Bulls on their own two-yard line, neither team scored through the remainder of the first half and USF trailed by the 2-0 margin.
At the outset of the second half, USF came out with the look of a team ready to pick up the pace. The defense forced a Cincinnati punt after a three and out on the opening series of the second half, and USF assumed control on its own 48-yard line after the punt.
Grothe went to work, mixing runs by himself and running backs Ben Williams and Ricky Ponton with two pass completions to Williams and Taurus Johnson. After six plays that included a successful fourth-and-one run by Ponton, the Bulls had a first-and-10 at the Cincinnati 12-yard line. But after a Grothe run gained no ground, the freshman was intercepted at the eight-yard line by Dominic Ross, ending the drive just eight-yards shy of a 7-2 USF lead.
Still, the USF defense remained stingy on Cincinnati's next possession, forcing a long field goal attempt that fell short. The Bulls took over with 2:41 remaining in the third quarter and still trailed by the 2-0 margin. A 15-yard personal foul penalty on Cincinnati would move the Bulls to their 43-yard line, but two plays later, Johnson took possession of a Grothe pass, but fumbled after a hard hit, and Kevin McCullough returned it 39 yards for a touchdown and a 9-0 Cincinnati lead with 1:02 left in the third quarter.
On USF's next possession, the Bulls managed six yards on an Amarri Jackson catch and a Ponton run, but found themselves into a fourth-and-four after an incomplete pass on third down. With Cincinnati keeping three deep men for a return on Justin Teachey's rugby style kick, the Bulls felt the time was right for a fake punt. But Teachey's run around the right side gained just one yard after he stumbled and Cincinnati now had the ball at the USF 22-yard line.
Five plays later, Cincinnati had a commanding 16-0 lead when Greg Moore went over the right side for a one-yard score with 12:52 remaining in the game.
After several possession exchanges, including one in which Grothe was forced from the game with a cut nose that required stitches in two locations, USF found itself in a fourth and 10 from its own 27-yard line with less than four minutes left in the game. Down 6-0, the Bulls had little choice but to try to pick up the first down, but a Pat Julmiste pass to Cedric Hill fell incomplete, handing the ball back to the Bearcats at the 27-yard line. It took just one play from there for Cincinnati to pad its lead to 23-0 when Butler Benton burst open through the right side for a 27-yard score.
The Bulls did avoid the shutout when Julmiste hit four different receivers – Amp Hill, Ean Randolph, Ponton and S.J. Green – to push the offense to the Cincinnati 11-yard line for a first-and-10. From there, Julmiste made good on his first down throw to Hill for an 11-yarrd scored with 50 seconds remaining. After a failed two-point conversion and onside kick, the Bearcats killed the clock with one kneel-down.
USF's defense did limit the Bearcats to 105 passing yards and allowed each of two touchdowns on short field situations – both coming on drives of just 27 yards. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas led the way with 12 tackles, including two for losses and one sack.
The game kicked off with a temperature of 45 degrees, the second coldest game in USF history. The Bulls played at Connecticut last season in a game that started with a 33 degree reading. USF falls to 2-2 in games played below 50 degrees.
After a bye week, USF returns to action November 4 when Pittsburgh comes to Tampa for a 12 Noon Homecoming game.
USF Mistakes, Lead to 23-6 Loss At Cincy
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