Hopes were high going into Friday night for the USF Bulls. The team was supposed to look like the team who began 7-0 in 2018, not the team that lost 6 straight to end the year. Kerwin Bell was supposed to add life and energy to an offense that looked stagnant under Sterlin Gilbert. A multitude of weapons were supposed to help Blake Barnett fuel an upset victory over 19th ranked Wisconsin. None of those things happened. The offense looked sluggish, Barnett’s receivers dropped multiple passes, and Jonathan Taylor was everything he was hyped up to be for the Badgers. All of that led to a 49-0 blowout loss for the USF to start the 2019 campaign.
The Bulls got a heavy dose of Taylor on the 1st drive of the game. The junior running back had 4 carries in a row to start the drive where he was held in check. His 5th carry went differently. The Heisman candidate got loose and took the ball 37 yards to the endzone to give the Badgers an early 7-0 lead. The story of the 1st quarter for the USF offense was drops. Blake Barnett nearly connected on two deep balls in the opening frame. Both of those balls hit his wide-outs right in the hands, but both bounced right off. Those were drive killers for the boys from Tampa and they entered the 2nd down by 7.
The 2nd quarter didn’t start much better for the Bulls. Blake Barnett was mauled dropping back for a pass. The ball ended up in the hands of Matt Henningsen. The 286 pound defensive lineman then took it 16 yards into the endzone to double Wisconsin lead. The next time the Badgers touched the ball, they went back to Taylor. This time it was a 36-yard reception that extended the Wisconsin lead to 21-0. The frustrating night for USF would continue. Barnett was intercepted on the next drive off of a deflection. The Bulls defense looked like it finally sparked the offense when KJ Sails recovered a fumble, but that drive was snuffed out very quickly by the Badger defense. With 2 seconds left in the half things got even worse. Jonathan Taylor’s 2nd catch of the game was a 12 yard touchdown that made the score 28-0 heading to the locker room. Taylor had 128 total yards and 3 touchdowns in the 1st half. The USF offense mustered 53.
USF needed a big start and spark coming out of the locker room to get back into the game. They didn’t get it. The offense went 3 and out and then it took just 3 plays for Wisconsin to go 69 yards. Taylor got his 4th touchdown of the game on a 38 yard scamper. The Bulls ended up going for it on 4th and 1 from their own 20 to try and get something going, but once again came up empty. The Badgers failed to take advantage of the outstanding field position thanks to a missed field goal. USF kept trying everything. On their next position they attempted a fake punt, but once again it came up short. The Badgers brought in a different running back, but got the same result. Nakia Watston took his 7th carry of the game 27 yards for the score.
The 4th quarter didn’t have many positives either for the Bulls. Barnett was intercepted again and then Wisconsin got a 3rd running back into the endzone. Bradrick Shaw’s 15-yard touchdown made it 49-0. With the other running backs getting work, Taylor finished his night with 183 total yards and 4 touchdowns.
USF will face another power 5 foe in week 2 of the season. The Bulls will travel north to Atlanta to face the new look Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets who are coming off of a humbling loss to the Clemson Tigers to start the season. Kickoff for that one is scheduled for 2 pm. Pregame coverage begins an hour prior and you can hear it all on our sister station, 1250 WHNZ.