TAMPA, Fla. —- The quest for a championship ring began Saturday night for the University of South Florida football program at home under the light at Raymond James Stadium.
The University of South Florida defeated the University of Cincinnati 26-20, for the first win of the season in front of 31,077 and suddenly the Bulls find themselves in first place in the conference.
University of South Florida football coach Willie Taggart enjoying the victory still dripping with Gatorade, decided that the win is something to sing about, so he broke into a song.
“It’s big, the first one and hopefully it will give us some confidence but more important to our guys is that they can do it,” Taggart said. “It was just a matter of going out there and getting it done and make some winning plays.”
The Bulls defense and special team came out in the first half and provided the breaks and turnovers that had plagued the Bulls offense.
“Tough night, we did not start playing especially on offensive side of the ball, to about the middle of the third quarter,” University of Cincinnati football coach Tommy Tuberville said outside the Bearcats locker room. “We couldn’t get balanced, we did block anybody on the offensive line first half and they just lined up and whipped us.”
“We played physical and we played hard,” Tuberville said. “ You can’t give up 14 points on the road it’s not going to happen.”
The Bulls scored the first touchdown of the game when Mike McFarland crash through the line of scrimmage reach toward the sky and swatted the 40-yard field goal attempt by Bearcats place kicker Tony Milano to the ground.
The ball scooped up by Mark Oliver and he ran the blocked field goal 75-yards for the touchdown.
Bulls defensive back Mark Joyce intercepted Kay twice during the game, the first came at the 12:01 mark of the first quarter giving the University of South Florida’s offense a chance to score more points.
Joyce’s second interception happened in the third quarter, he laid out in front of Kay’s intended receiver and caught the ball but the Bulls could not convert the turnover into points.
“He threw it right at me,” Joyce said. “I guess I was in the right place like my coach put me in the right place. The D-line got pressure and on the second one I just got a good break and the D-Line made him throw it before he wanted to and I got in there and made the play.”
Midway through the first quarter the Bulls’ quarterback Steven Bench lowered his shoulder on a rushing attempt off tackle, he lost the ball but came out of the pile limping toward the Bulls’ sideline
Luckily for the Bulls, the offense dodged a bullet but paid the price too, when Bench fumbled the ball but Bulls’ right guard Dominique Threet felt the ball hit his ankle and then he fell on top of ball for the Bulls.
Bench remained on the sideline for the rest of the game with a leg injury.
Joining Bench on the sideline early in the second quarter, Bulls running back Marcus Shaw with an injury to his lower leg.
Taggart called upon and handed the reigns to the Bulls’ offense in the hands of quarterback Bobby Eveld and running back Michael Pierre.
“I practice like I am going to be the starter,” Eveld said about getting ready for any game.
“Those are big shoes to fill,” Pierre said about replacing Shaw in the game.
Pierre finished the game with 16 running attempts for 61 yards but he did not find the end zone.
Eveld managed to get the Bulls in good field goal position with 7:55 in the first quarter and USF place kicker Marvin Kloss did not miss the 25-yard field goal giving the Bulls an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Kloss also made field goals of 52,24 and 40 yards field goals.
Eveld did a good job with the offense, he completed 10 of 16 for 122 yards he was sacked twice but Eveld did not turn the ball over.
The magic of the first half continued, when the USF defense caught Cincinnati wide receiver Chris Moore in the back field for 10-yard loss and he lost the ball to Bulls’ linebacker DeDe Lattimore picked up the fumble and found the way to the end zone clear for a touchdown.
The music soared as the band took the field, the Bulls concluded the best half of football this season and going into the locker room leading the University of Cincinnati, 23-6 at halftime.
“We have to stay focused!” Taggart said, as he left the field heading into the locker room.
The University of Cincinnati’s offense were able to stay on the field a long time in the second half because of the tenacity and the toughness of Kay.
Kay continue to make plays even under pressure from the Bulls defensive line but he able to find open receivers just under the zone defense and out in the flat area.
“The one guy that did play his tale off and that was (Brendon) Kay,” Tuberville said about his quarterback. “The doctors wanted him to pull him out at half time. He got hit in the sternum and he could hardly breath he wanted to go so we give him a couple of opportunities in the third quarter and he played pretty good.”
Kay ran for the 11 times for 28 yards, he also threw the ball 36 times completing 24 yards for 240 yards including three touchdowns passes but he threw two interceptions.
The next game for the Bulls will be next Saturday October 12, 2013 and it will be on the road, the first road trip in the conference. The Bulls will be in Storrs, Connecticut to play the Huskies of the University of Connecticut starting at noon.
Taggart is hoping for another conference win, so he can keep on smiling and have something good to sing about-a Bulls victory.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.