USF Opens Conference Play With Disappointing Loss To SMU

USF fans hoped they’d see an SMU team that was a bit hungover after beating a rival in TCU last week. That wasn’t the case at all. The Bulls looked sluggish in the 1st half and were set back by dropped interceptions on defense and Jordan McCloud throwing 2 interceptions on defense. The Mustangs, behind Shane Buechele and Xavier Jones jumped out to a 34-0 lead at the half. Blake Barnett replaced McCloud in the 2nd half and the Bulls performed better, but it was entirely too little, too late. USF fell to 1-3 with a 48-21 loss at home. 

Neither team could get much going on their 1st possession, but SMU came alive on their 2nd drive of the game. The opening play of that drive was almost an interception by Mike Hampton, but the ball went off of his hands and right into the waiting arms of a receiver. 4 plays later, Xavier Jones ran in his 9th touchdown of the season to put the Mustangs up 7-0. The USF offense tried to answer on their next drive. Jordan McCloud extended the drive with an 18 yard run on 4th down. SMU got one up on McCloud thoughRodney Clemons intercepted a pass that was intended for Mitchell Wilcox. That turnover bit the Bulls in a big way. SMU marched right down the field and Jones exploded up the middle on a 36-yard touchdown run to double the lead. The bad luck continued for McCloud on the next drive. He was intercepted by Clemons again on a badly underthrown ball. 

That turnover turned into ore points for SMU. It looked like the USF defense had the Mustangs pinned down, but Shane Buechele was able to find James Proche in the endzone on 4th down to extend the lead to 21-0. SMU didn’t stop there. They stopped USF on their next drive and then marched right down the field in just over a minute. Buechele found Roberson Jr. this time on a 31-yard touchdown pass that made it 28-0 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the half. USF looked like they finally had something go their way when they recovered a Jones’ fumble in the redzone, but the call was reversed after an official review. On the very next play Buechele found Proche on a 19-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was no good so the lead stood at 34-0, halfway through the 2nd quarter. 

Blake Barnett relieved McCloud at quarterback to start the 2nd half for the Bulls. Barnett had some success, but the drive stalled when a bad snap led to a 20-yard loss and th Bulls were forced to punt it away. The 1st score of the half came with just over 2 minutes left in the quarter. Buechele took it in himself on a 10-yard scramble to make it a 41 point lead. The USF answered on the next drive to finally get on the board. A 2-minute drive was capped by Barnett finding Jacob Mathis for a 24-yard touchdown. 

Barnett found more success on a quick drive in the 4th quarter. This time the quarterback led his team to the promised land in just over a minute by finding Bryce Miller on a 13-yard throw and catch. Both teams added scores in the final minutes and we ended with a final score of 48-21. 

The Bulls will continue conference play next week with a trip to the northeast. The Bulls will be in town to face UCONN in conference play for the final time with the Huskies leaving the AAC after this season. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm. The game will be heard on either WHNZ or WDAE depending on the Tampa Bay Rays postseason schedule.

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