This was the worst effort the Bulls have cobbled together this year. Willie Taggart opened up competition for the quarterback spot after Mike White's fumbled snaps in Cincinnati and decided to go with Steven Bench this week. After he completed 12 of 25 passes for 147 yards and led the sputtering offense to three points, that seems to have been a mistake.
Bench didn't do anything idiotic; he only threw one interception, and that was in garbage time. But Taggart and Paul Wulff did not seem to have enough confidence in him to let him throw real passes. This brings up the question: why did you start him, then? "Our offense needed a spark. I love Steven's leadership, I love Steven's confidence," Taggart said after the game. Whatever he saw in practice didn't seem to translate to the game, or at least not in any way that is better than Mike White. He wasn't worse per se, but certainly not a tangible improvement either.
Without Andre Davis for the first half, Bench threw only five passes. Quinton Flowers came in and threw one pass in his three-and-out series. With 21 rushes and six passes, who cares who is quarterback? A not-so-creative offense got 104 yards and zero points. Sometimes the Bulls are pretty entertaining even when losing, but this was one of the dullest halves of football anywhere this season.
The first half defense was pretty spot-on, holding Houston to 96 yards and four punts. Five minutes into the game the Bulls forced Houston to punt from their own 27-yard line, but a personal foul before the kick kept Houston's drive alive. 10 plays later, Greg Ward hit Deonte Greenberry for a two-yard touchdown pass. Aside from that the defense kept the game well within reach, going to the locker room down 7-0.
The second half looked more promising, with Andre Davis back from his first half suspension and USF starting off with the ball. The offense switched from short runs to short passes, with hardly anyone getting carries in the second half. The second drive of the third quarter looked pretty nice, with eight consecutive passes moving the Bulls 57 yards. But it stalled in the red zone (surprise!) and Kloss hit a 33 yard field goal cutting the lead to 14-3.
Although the defense contained Greg Ward, they were worn down by Houston's agonizingly long seven minute touchdown drive to begin the fourth quarter. Looking at a 20-3 deficit, everyone within the 813 area code knew this game was in the books. Any hope that remained vanished when USF punted, down 17 points, with almost nine minutes left in the game. A tired and not-so-inspired defense gave up another touchdown on a 24 yard run that should have been stopped at the line of scrimmage. The 27-3 Houston lead was completely fair, and would last until the final whistle.
"I saw this team making a bowl game from the beginning of the year. That was our goal, and it's still there," Taggart said after the loss. USF needs to win out for that to be a possibility. And a team that puts up three points in four quarters of football is not winning a thing.