It's over folks. (The losing streak, we mean... not the season.) USF's six-game losing streak is finally over after an ugly 13-6 win over UConn. But despite the win, the Bulls lost something much more important in the process, starting quarterback B.J. Daniels, who broke his ankle in the 4th quarter after running for a first down inside the Huskies' 20-yard line.
It was a dull game for the handful of fans who showed up to Raymond James Stadium, but with the Bulls so injury-riddled, and UConn strong defensively and inept offensively, that's the kind of game we were likely to end up with. USF scored first on a run by Daniels in the first quarter, but it was their only touchdown of the night. UConn hit a few passes and took advantage of good field position late in the first half to get a Chad Christen 50-yard field right before halftime.
In the second half, USF went three and out on their opening possession, and the Huskies got another Christen field goal to cut the lead to 7-6. At that point, myself and other fans were probably thinking the same thing -- here we go again. The Bulls and their maligned defense had blown so many late leads, but the Bulls continued to get pressure and held tight, (Cosh blitzed a lot more than usual, and for a change it worked.)
Backed up deep in their own territory early in the fourth quarter, UConn began moving the ball again. But after a big pass and run by Chandler Whitmer, the Huskies botched a handoff to Lyle McCombs, who never secured the ball. Freshman Tashon Whitehurst, who had a huge game in place of the suspended Sam Barrington, came up with the loose ball, and the Bulls looked to extend their lead. After throwing to Sean Price for a first down, Daniels ran what will probably be his last play in a USF uniform. He was tackled hard around the ankles after running up the middle for a first down, and couldn't get back up. Daniels, the heart and soul of the defense, needed to be helped off the field and was carted to the locker room with a broken ankle. As a fan, it was hard to watch him go off the field like that. As much as we have questioned and yelled at Daniels over the years, no one wanted it all to end that way.
With Daniels out, redshirt freshman Matt Floyd came in, promptly fumbled the first snap, and then couldn't connect with Andre Davis in the end zone. Maikon Bonani saved the drive with a field goal to extend USF's lead to 10-6, but after watching them fail to do it all year, no one was really sure the defense could come up late with any kind of stop.
It looked like our worst fears would come true as UConn immediately started driving. But then the Bulls got pressure on Whitmer, his arm was hit as he threw, and a deep pass fluttered up into the air, where Jon Lejiste was waiting to field it like a punt. Finally, USF's first interception of the year, and with the return and two penalties on the Huskies after the whistle, the Bulls were set up at the UConn 36. Floyd couldn't get a first down, but Bonani hit a career-long 50-yard field goal to increase USF's lead to 13-6. Now, could the defense do it again?
For once, the answer was yes. UConn drove downfield again, converting a couple of big third downs (one thanks to an obvious pass interference call on George Baker). But at the USF 22, Elkino Watson deflected a Whitmer pass and the ball ricocheted into Eric Lee's hands to end the threat, and the game.
It was about as ugly a win as you could imagine, but it was still a win, and that means USF's faint hopes of reaching a bowl are still alive. The 3-6 Bulls now have two weeks to get Matt Floyd ready to face Miami on November 17 at Sun Life Stadium.