USF’s Big East struggles continued as they fell to the Louisville Cardinals, 34-24 at Raymond James Stadium on Nov. 25.
The victory allowed Louisville (7-5, 5-2 Big East) to clinch a share of the Big East championship. USF (5-6, 1-5 Big East) needs a victory against the 8-3 West Virginia Mountaineers on Dec. 1 in order to qualify for its seventh consecutive bowl appearance.
USF quarterback Bobby Eveld completed 20 of 35 passes for 210 yards for one touchdown and one interception in relief for starter B.J. Daniels, who is nursing his right shoulder injury.
“It was kind of a game-time decision,” Eveld said. “We didn’t want to tell Louisvile what we’re doing. We wanted to have them prepare for both of us. It’s always going to be harder in the second half since defenses have a better idea on what you’re going to do. I think the offense did a good job overall.”
Running back Darrell Scott ran for 54 yards on 16 carries. Receiver Deonte Welch caught four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown from a trick play thrown by running back Demetris Murray for 37 yards. Murray also ran in for a score as well as caught four passes for 44 yards. Lindsay Lamar’s lone reception was for 35 yards from Eveld.
“The first half, I thought we had a little consistency,” said offensive coordinator Todd Fitch. “The second half, they played a little more man, a little more aggressive.”
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 19 of 28 for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Dominique Brown ran for 69 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. Receiver Eli Rodgers caught four passes for 84 yards and DeVante Parker caught three passes for 42 yards and two touchdowns.
“With [Bridgewater’s] arm and escapability, we knew it was going to be an issue [on third downs],” said defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. “Not only did he get away from the rush, he made big plays when he did get away from the rush.”
After Louisville made their initial field goal in two tries late in the first quarter, USF responded with a 7-play 80 yard drive to start off the second quarter capping off in Lamar’s touchdown. The Bulls would tack on a field goal and a touchdown following the next two Louisville drives resulting from a punt and a fumble. Louisville did not have to do much to respond following a 54 yard return from Senorise Perry and two passes from Bridgewater to put the Cardinals within a score at 17-10 at the half.
“So many times this season, you come in at halftime and have a lead and not be able to hold on to it in the second half, it’s very frustrating,” said head coach Skip Holtz. “I give Louisville a lot of credit. I think Teddy Bridgewater played an excellent game.”
The Bulls were outscored 24-7 in the second half as USF could not get anything going the entire second half either on offense or defense. The Bulls’ only score came from a shortened field from Lamar’s 62-yard return late in the third quarter which Murray threw on the trick play to Welch for the touchdown in the follow-up play to put them up 24-20 with 2:21 left to play in the third quarter.
“Defensively I thought we were poor,” Holtz said. “You shouldn’t leave that many guys uncontested and wide open.”
The Bulls will wrap up their regular season Dec. 1 at Raymond James Stadium with one last shot at bowl eligibility against West Virginia.