USF Football: Bulls drop heartbreaker to Tulsa

Battie’s 100-yard kickoff return and Grier’s 69-yard interception return fuel Bulls to early lead

TAMPA, FLA., OCT. 16, 2021– The USF football team (1-5; 0-2 AAC) fell in a heartbreaker, 32-31, to Tulsa (3-4; 2-1 AAC) Saturday in Raymond James Stadium.

The Bulls jumped to a 14-point lead in the second quarter behind big plays on special teams and defense and led by 11, 31-20, with 4:30 to play in the third quarter, but saw Tulsa score the go-ahead touchdown with 47 seconds left in the game to down the Bulls for the second straight year in Tampa.

The USF defense put on one of its best performances of the season, forcing three turnovers, scoring a defensive touchdown and forcing the Hurricane to turn the ball over on punts or downs on their first three second half possessions. Linebacker Antonio Grier posted the first interception of his career and forced and recovered a fumble that set up a score as he sparked the Bulls early. His 69-yard interception return for a touchdown marked the third-longest in program history and his fumble recovery set the Bulls up on the Tulsa 12 for an eventual touchdown.

Fellow linebacker Dwayne Boyles posted an interception for the second straight game, the third of his career, and Vincent Davis led the Bulls with a career-best 13 tackles and two tackles for loss.

Bulls running back Jaren Mangham posted his fifth straight game with a rushing touchdown, plunging in from 1-yard out to give him 10 on the year which is tied for ninth on the USF season charts.

Tulsa out-gained the Bulls 535 to 268 yards, ran 31 more plays (88-57) and recorded 31 first downs to the Bulls 13. But the Bulls special teams play and opportunistic defense gave USF a great chance to win the game.

The teams traded field goals on their first possessions of the game until Grier swung the momentum USF’s way by ripping the ball away from Tulsa running back Anthony Watkins and recovering it at the Tulsa 12.

USF used four plays to record the game’s first touchdown with Mangham plunging in from a yard out for his 10th rushing touchdown of the season to give the Bulls a 10-3 lead with 12:55 to play in the second quarter.

Tulsa drove the ball to the USF 25 before Boyles stepped in front of a Davis Brin pass for his second pick in as many games. After taking over on their own 15, the Bulls were unable to gain a first down and punted the ball back to the Hurricane, which promptly marched 43 yards in four plays, tying the game on 1-yard Deneric Prince touchdown run.

USF swung the momentum again, this time with Brian Battie returning the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, marking the third 100-yard return in program history and giving the Bulls a 17-10 lead.

Tulsa again moved the ball quickly down the field, but this time Grier stepped in front of a Brin pass at the Bulls 31 and returned it 69 yards, weaving through Tulsa players on his way to the third-longest interception return for a touchdown in program history. Grier’s first career interception gave USF a 24-10 lead late in the second quarter.

Tulsa responded driving 68 yards for a field goal and then forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff as they stripped Jimmy Horn Jr. of the ball and recovered it on the USF 37. Brin promptly hit Sam Crawford Jr. with a 37-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage and suddenly it was a four-point game, 24-20, at the half.

USF nearly struck first in the second half when Xavier Weaver caught a punt at his own 45 and returned it to the endzone, but the play was called back on a roughing the kicker call and Tulsa used the first down to move the ball out of deep in its own territory before punting.

McClain made two big time throws, one a 36-yard fade to Demarcus Gregory who made a tremendous catch on the sideline, to lead the Bulls 81 yards on 10 plays, capping the drive with his own 8-yard touchdown run to stake the Bulls to a 31-20 lead with 4:30 to play in the third quarter.

After an Andrew Stokes punt put the ball on the Tulsa 1, the Hurricane cut the lead to 31-26 by going 99 yards in 10 plays capped by a 13-yard pass from Brin to Josh Johnson. Tulsa’s two-point conversion try was stopped, but the Bulls were flagged for roughing the passer. The second attempt also went nowhere and USF had a five-point lead with 10:57 to play.

The teams traded punts before USF drove 22 yards to the its own 42 and faced a fourth and one. Scott elected to go for the short first down, but Mangham was stopped short of the line and Tulsa took over on downs with 4:20 to play.

The Hurricane used nine plays to reach the end zone, capping the game-winning drive with a three-yard run from Shamari Brooks.

USF had one last chance, taking the ball on its own 27 with 42 seconds to play but where only able to move five yards before giving the ball back to Tulsa on downs.

Quotable – Head Coach Jeff Scott

“It was a gut-wrenching loss. The reason it hurts is not because we were up and let it go or any of that, it hurts because our guys played their tails off.

I’m obviously disappointed in the result. I take a lot of responsibility on me. There were a lot of plays that we had where we could’ve won the game, maybe 8-10 of those plays. We didn’t get it done and at the end of the day that falls on me. The one thing I am very proud of is how hard our guys played. Our guys did not play like a 1-4 football team that have been through what they’ve been through in five games. They played their hearts out. At the end of the day, we didn’t get it done at the very end when we had some opportunities. It was a big difference from when we played these guys a year ago with pretty much the same team. We were in position. We’ve got to find a way to win the game.

“Obviously, the call everyone wants to talk about is understandable, the fourth-and-one, and at the end of the day, I’m going to go down believing in our guys. That’s what it was all about. Jaren Mangham and that offensive line have been dang-good this year. It was four minutes to go. You get the first down, I feel like you win the game. Yeah, we could’ve punted it and this, that and the other, but we said we’re going to attack, we’re going to be aggressive and we felt like we had the right call.”

Key Stats
535-268 – Tulsa out-gained the Bulls by 267 yards on offense

3-1– The USF defense forced three turnovers, its most since Oct. 32 last year at Cincinnati, while the Bulls only committed one turnover on a kickoff return.

88-57 – The Tulsa offense ran 31 more plays than USF and recorded 31 first downs to 13 for the Bulls.
 
Notables

• Freshman Brian Battie produced a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, marking the Bulls’ first kickoff return for a touchdown since Terrence Horne had two vs. Georgia Tech in 2018. It marked the third 100-yard kickoff return in program history, and the first since Lindsey Lamar had one at Louisville in 2010.

• Antonio Grier’s 69-yard interception return for a touchdown was the first for a Bull since Bentlee Sanders at Memphis last year and marked the third-longest in program history, behind a 73-yard TD return by Trae Williams vs. Cincinnati in 2007 and an 86-yarder by Bernard Brown vs. Liberty in 2001.

• Jaren Mangham posted his fifth straight game with a rushing touchdown and now has 10 on the year, good for a tie for ninth on the USF season charts.

• Spencer Shrader remained a perfect 7-of-7 on field goals on the season, hitting from 44 yards out.

Up Next
USF returns to Raymond James Stadium next Saturday night to face Temple in a 7 p.m. kickoff broadcast on ESPN+.

Tickets for USF home games can be purchased by calling or texting 1-800-GoBulls or visiting USFBullstix.com or Ticketmaster.

ABOUT USF FOOTBALL

The USF football program first took the field in 1997 and will celebrate its 25th season in 2021 (22nd at the FBS level). USF has posted 15 winning seasons and is the fastest program in the state of Florida to reach 150 all-time wins. Bulls have earned 14 All-America selections, 29 first-team all-conference selections, and 30 USF players have been selected in the NFL Draft. USF has made 10 bowl game appearances (going 6-4 in those games) and posted a program-record six-straight from 2005-2010. The Bulls most recently made four straight bowl appearances from 2015-18 and posted back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2016 and 2017, logging a program-record 11-2 mark in 2016 while finishing both seasons ranked in the Top 25. USF spent a program-record 20-straight weeks ranked in the Top 25 during the 2016 and 2017 seasons and reached as high as No. 2 in the national rankings during the 2007 season.

Follow @USFFootball on Twitter for all the latest information concerning the USF Football program.

– #GoBulls  –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *