USF has showed fight all season. A big part of that never quit mentality has been given to the Bulls by transfer quarterback, Blake Barnett. On Saturday night, the Bulls headed to chilly Ohio to face an 8-1 Cincinnati team. They had to do it without Barnett. Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean both got playing time and the Bulls came out ready to go. They would lead the Bearcats, 16-14 at halftime. South Florida just simply couldn’t keep that momentum going. They got a heavy dose of the best running back in the AAC, Michael Warren as he scored 3 touchdowns in the 3rd quarter to completely flip the script on this ball game. USF was eliminated from contention for the AAC title in the 35-23 loss.
The USF defense got off to a great start, forcing the Bearcats into a 3 and out, but Chris Oladokun got off to an even better one. Ryeshene Bronson hauled in Oladokun’s 1st pass of the ball game with 1 hand, behind the defender’s back, and then took it the rest of the 70-plus yards for the touchdown. The Bearcats would block the extra point though to only allow the 6 points. USF would force another 3 and out on the next drive, but a great punt pinned the Bulls at their own 1-yard line. South Florida could get nothing going and were forced to punt from their own endzone. A good return and a penalty had Cincinnati starting with a 1st and goal. Khalil Lewis made a great catch in the back of the endzone on 3rd and goal and the ensuing extra point was made to put the Bearcats in front. USF answered with a great kickoff return of their own. Bentlee Sanders’ return had the Bulls deep in Cincinnati territory, but the offense couldn’t get much going. USF did take the lead with a Coby Weiss 37-yard field goal.
USF held the lead after the 1st quarter, but Cincy was near the redzone to start the 2nd. A few plays later Michael Warren was ontouched after hauling in a pass out of the backfield. 13 yards later he put the home team back in front. On the next drive for USF Ohio native, Brett Kean took over at quarterback and found instant chemistry with Mitchell Wilcox. First, he found the tight end for a 1st down. A few plays later he found a diving Wilcox for a 38-yard touchdown pass for the 4th lead change of the game. Cincinnati had a chance to take the lead on their next drive, but were unsuccessful on a field goal attempt. The Bulls held a 2-point lead heading to the locker room.
Oladokun took back over at quarterback for the Bulls to start the 2nd half, but couldn’t find the same success he did on his 1st drive of the game. Cincy didn’t have to worry about a missed field goal on their next drive. Michael Warren continued to be the biggest Bull killer of the night. His 57 yard touchdown run put his team back in front and him over 1000 yards rushing for the season. That roll for Michael Warren continued on the very next drive. Penalties by the Bulls put the Bearcats in great scoring position and it was the man they call Truck that ran it in for his 3rd total touchdown of the night. That score gave Cincinnati the biggest lead of the game at 28-16. The Bulls showed some of their signature fight on the very next drive. They converted a 3rd and 14 and a 4th and 1 before Oladokun got more highlight reel help from his receivers. This time it was Tyre McCants who climbed the ladder to haul in a 25-yard touchdown and cut the lead back to 5. If you blinked you might have missed Cincinnati’s answer. Two long passes from Desmond Ritter put the Bearcats back in Warren territory. The running back ran it in on 4th and goal to make it a 2 score game once again.
Only 2 games remain on the schedule for the Bulls. Next week they will head out on the road for the final time this season. USF will be in Philadelphia to take on the Temple Owls. Kickoff time has not yet been announced.