B.J. Daniels gashed the Orange with nearly 400 total yards of offense, dodging several defenders as a runner and getting the ball down the field as a passer in leading the Bulls to a 37-17 win.
Though the Syracuse offense moved the ball, it could not score when it counted most. The wide receivers and tight ends didn't help the situation with several drops, including three in the end zone.
"We feel sick to our stomach," wideout Dorian Graham said, speaking for all of the pass-catchers. "Ryan (Nassib) put the ball where he needed to put it, and we just didn't make plays."
"We chart drops every single day in practice," SU coach Doug Marrone said. "I have to do a better job creating an atmosphere (in practice)."
Both defenses came out of the gates playing well, allowing less than 60 yards in the first quarter. South Florida's offense got the first scoring chance as a result of an 11-yard punt by Jonathan Fisher.
The Bulls took advantage of that, plus a personal foul penalty on the way to notching three points on a Maikon Bonani 29-yard field goal.
The Orange came out with running mentality, and it yielded just three first-quarter first downs in the process. SU's defense held its own, but penalties were a problem at the beginning of the second quarter. Rishard Anderson was called for pass interference, and Torrey Ball was flagged for a personal foul soon after. Once close, the Bulls converted a 4th-and-1 and found the end zone on a 3-yard Marcus Shaw plunge on the very next play.
"It starts with me," Marrone said of the lack of discipline and spotty play that has led to a three-game losing streak. "I'm not getting this team to be playing at a high enough level for us to be consistent and win football games."
SU signal-caller Ryan Nassib helped to get the offense going on the next series, running for 7 yards on a scramble before finding David Stevens, who worked man-coverage for 26 yards. On a third down, Nassib was on point to a diving Alec Lemon later in the drive, but review determined that the ball hit the ground first – forcing a punt.
After a USF punt, Nassib would not be denied on the next drive. He dropped back on four straight plays before finding Lemon for a 10-yard score. The touchdown came one play after he found Lemon for a 22-yard gain on 3rd-and-14. Nassib got the Orange in scoring position initially on a 24-yard connection with Nick Provo. The five-play drive took jut 1:48 off of the clock.
"We get in position to call plays where he (Lemon) has some routes (to run) that he's very good at," Nassib said. "He just keeps winning, so I can't help but to get him the rock."
The Syracuse momentum lasted only so long, as Shane raupers' kickoff rolled out of bounds for a penalty. On the play, Jeremiah Kobena was flagged for a late hit. USF wasted little time capitalizing on the field position as Daniels found Andre Davis for 43 yards to get the Bulls inside the 5-yard line. From there, Daniels strolled in on an easy QB-keeper.
South Florida was then guilty on a pair of personal fouls to put Syracuse in business. Nassib continued to methodically get the offense down the field, utilizing short throws and his legs to do so. He fired a ball to Graham on 3rd-and-7 from the 11-yard line, and the ball went off of his finger-tips. Ross Krautman, who has battled a groin injury, made good on a 28-yard field goal.
Daniels and company came out throwing in a last-minute effort to get points before the half ended. A bubble screen to Evan Landi netted 16 yards, Demetris Murray gashed the middle of the defense for 13 yards and Daniels scrambled for 10 more on consecutive third downs. He nearly hit Victor Marc for a deep score, but Jeremi Wilkes broke the play up at the last second with a big hit. The Bulls settled for 46-yard try from Bonani with one second on the clock, and he made good on the attempt with room to spare.
Bulls Bend but Don't Break
Daniels was at it again the first chance he got in the third quarter. He got the drive going on a 23-yard keeper up the heart of the Orange defense. Several crossing routes and draws later, the Bulls appeared to score on a double reverse, but a holding penalty brought the play back. USF was flagged for holding on the next play as well, setting up an eventual 3rd-and-25. Once Shamarko Thomas wrapped up Deonte Welche short of the mark, Bonani was on for another field goal. He converted from 35-yards out to cap the 15-play drive.
After the Orange went three-and-out, Daniels went for the dagger. He found an open Marc for what looked like an easy touchdown, but Keon Lyn rallied late and forced a fumble that rolled out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.
The momentum resulted in just one first down for Nassib, coming on a scramble attempt. Beckett Wales dropped a sure-fire first down before Fisher punted the ball away for a sixth time.
The Orange came up with a three-and-out defensively, getting the offense right back out there. Bailey went to work from there, getting back in the mix on three straight running plays. He notched 17 yards on those efforts, before Jerome Smith picked up a first down to get SU down to the USF 12. Bailey had two chances from inside the 7-yard line, but he could only get down to the 1. On third down, Stevens dropped what looked like an easy score. Marrone elected to go for it on fourth down, with the team down 13 points early in the fourth quarter. Nassib was swarmed and threw up a desperation attempt that fell incomplete.
"They brought on all-out pressure (on fourth down), and the play we had against that pressure wasn't the best," Nassib said. "I probably should have audibled…I bite my tongue on that one."
SU got another stop from the defense, and Nassib went right back to Lemon just as he did last week against UConn. The two hooked up for a combined 29 yards on the first two plays of the drive. Nassib then found Graham for another first down. He went back to Lemon on third and fourth down soon after, but both passes fell off of the wideout's hands in the end zone.
"When Ryan (Nassib) is counting on us to make that catch and we don't, it sucks," Lemon said. "It's kind of frustrating."
"You want to get the ball back, but it's kind of hard when you ‘re dropping the ball all the time."
The Bulls ran clock and the rock soon after, marching 83 yards fueled by Daniels and capped by Murray score from 2-yards out.
Nassib came back and found a streaking Lemon for a 58-yard score on a quick drive, but it was a case of too little, too late.
The Bulls had a short field after fielding an onside kick, and ran the ball some more. Murray ended up with a second score, finishing with 86 yards on the evening.
-SU WR Van Chew suffered an undisclosed injury early in the game.
-SU's Ryan Nassib set the single-season school record for completions with 203.
-USF was playing without its leading rusher Darrell Scott. He has been dealing with concussion syndrome.
-Lemon finished with a career-high 179 yards receiving.
- Syracuse has lost three straight games for the first time all season, while South Florida snapped a four-game losing streak.
- Both teams are an even 1-4 in the Big East, but the Bulls hold the tie-breaker.