The South Florida Bulls dropped a fifth straight game to close out the regular season, falling 38-10 to the arch-rival Central Florida Knights in front of 57,626 at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night.
“We’re not a very good football team. We’re very fortunate we won seven games,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “I was comparing our team and their team and we don’t look anything like their team”
Making his second start of the season in place of an injured Blake Barnett, redshirt sophomore Chris Oladokun opened the game with a 22-yard scramble before the Bulls were forced to punt.
Oladokun completed seven of 12 passes for 77 yards, tossing an interception and USF’s lone touchdown pass late in the third quarter after re-entering the game as part of a questionable quarterback carousel.
“I just think my coaches felt like that (putting in Kean) was the best decision to make at that time,” Oladokun said. “And I fully support it. I’m a team player, so whatever we’ve got to do to win the ball game is what we’ve got to do.”
Kean played the majority of the second and third quarters, completing eight of 17 attempts for 36 yards.
“Both of them were gonna play, so it was just a judgment call of who was gonna go in,” Strong added. “Chris started off and Brett came in. … Both of those guys have played and they practiced so they were gonna be given that opportunity.”
With the game still scoreless, redshirt freshman Nick Roberts intercepted Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton and returned it to the UCF 12-yard line where the offense stalled on four consecutive handoffs.
“I think they were pressed up on us on the outside,” Strong said when asked about the play-calling. “So we felt like if we could just move them off the line of scrimmage we had a chance to go get the first down.”
The Knights (11-0, 8-0 AAC) responded immediately, putting together a 97-yard scoring drive, their longest of the season to grab a 7-0 lead in the final minute of the first quarter.
Milton later suffered a gruesome, gut-wrenching leg injury early in the second quarter and was carted off the field after a lengthy delay.
Great respect for a great player. Our sincerest wishes for all the best for McKenzie Milton.— USF Football (@USFFootball) November 23, 2018
Trailing 17-3 in the third quarter, Oladokun found freshman running back Johnny Ford over the middle for a 34-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to 17-10.
Along with hauling in his first career touchdown reception, Ford rushed for a team-high 120 yards on 16 carries.
“A lot of people weren’t focused...it’s on the players,” Ford said. “There are too many fingers being pointed, too many things being said.”
Down 24-10 with 10 minutes to play and facing a fourth and one from their own 43-yard line, Strong and company pulled out the most puzzling move of all by punting it away to the Knights... who found the end zone on a 31-yard Greg McCrae touchdown run just 53 seconds later to seal the game away.
“We weren’t moving the football,” Strong said when asked about the decision, “So I didn’t go for it again on fourth down.”
The Bulls (7-5, 3-5 AAC) defense allowed 558 yards of total offense to a mostly Milton-less squad, including 391 on the ground as the Knights went on to score 21 unanswered for a second straight War on I-4 victory.
“We have to re-evaluate,” Strong added. “That team right now is better than us and we’ve got a ways to go before we can catch them.”
USF will find out its bowl game fate in the coming weeks.
- Junior wide receiver Darnell Salomon did not play due to a coach’s decision.
- Tight end Mitchell Wilcox needs six more to match the USF record of 75 set by Sean Price (2012-15).