By: Michael Moore Jr.
USF football faced its first true test of the season. The result? Failure.
The Houston Cougars defeated the Bulls 28-24 on Saturday, tarnishing USF’s undefeated record and snapping the nation’s longest winning streak (12) in the process.
Green and gold hearts broke everywhere.
It’s not what we hoped for or expected — a not-so-perfect game in what had, up to that point, been an otherwise perfect season.
When we turned our television screens on Saturday morning to see USF quarterback and Heisman-longshot Quinton Flowers featured on ESPN’s “College Gameday,” we did so under the pretense of perfection.
Hours later, Houston played spoiler.
What was supposed to be a moment of glory deteriorated into a nightmare.
The slow starts, inconsistencies and inability to play all four quarters finally caught up with them. You can get away with those things against the Stony Brooks and the San Jose States of the world, but try and get away with that against the Cougars? Houston, we have a problem.
There were hopes that an undefeated season might be enough to secure a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game. For the uninitiated, these are the top six major NCAA Division I bowl games, which comprised of the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.
The Bulls have never been. Playing in one would have been an incredible milestone for the program.
They’ll have to imagine what that’s like from their couches come December and January.
Four quarters of football would have been enough to get the job done. The Bulls held the Cougars to a mere 82 yards in the first half and kept them off the scoreboard. Two quarters and four touchdowns later, and we were looking at a completely different story.
Flowers rushed for 7 yards in front of 32,316 screaming fans at Raymond James Stadium.
Neither team was perfect on Saturday. Houston’s imperfections were just a little less glaring. They did just enough to get the job done.
Just enough to ruin a season.
The season isn’t over — not technically speaking, anyway. There are still three games left, including a major final game against instate rival University of Central Florida.
But technicalities aside, this was the stake in the heart for the 2017-2018 USF football season. Losing one game may not seem like a lot, but in this instance given the current strength of schedule (or in this case, lack thereof) it is monumental.
The Bulls had a chance to rise to new heights. This loss puts an end to that.
But that’s OK. These things happen on the gridiron. A 20-yard touchdown run with 11 seconds remaining is sometimes going to be the difference between a win and a loss.
It is, after all, a game of inches.
The progress the Bulls have made in the last few years is undeniable. One can reasonably conclude that this trend will continue if USF finds a way to adapt in the post-Flowers era upon his graduation.
Despite the tough loss, the future looks bright.
An American Athletic Conference East Division Title is still possible if we can close out the rest of the season without another loss. Technically, a New Year’s Six bowl game is within reach, albeit those aspirations may be a bit lofty at this point.
And who knows what next season will hold?
Despite a losing effort, Flowers’ 332 total yards in the game pushed him over the 10,000 mark for his career. In all, the Bulls racked up 462 yards in total offense.
The loss also ended a 24 game streak that saw the Bulls score 30 points or more, a national record.
Pictured Above: Quinton Flowers, USF quarterback and longshot Heisman candidate, was recently featured on ESPN’s “College Gameday.” The Crow’s Nest Archives