Essentially playing a seventh home game, the South Florida Bulls were routed by Marshall 38-20 on Thursday night in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium, becoming the first team in college football history to start a season 7-0 and finish it 7-6.
“There’s work that needs to be done in the program and we’ve got to go get it done,” second-year head coach Charlie Strong said. “We’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to play better and there’s a lot that needs to be done.”
A 43-yard burst up the middle on the game’s first play by Marshall running back Brenden Knox was a sign of things to come as the Thundering Herd jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead.
The runners-up in Conference USA’s East Division finished with 282 rushing yards and 503 total yards.
Sophomore quarterback Chris Oladokun was pulled after two series and replaced by junior Blake Barnett who was sacked on his first play, fumbled a bad snap on his second play and went on to complete 11 of 23 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown.
Barnett’s number one target in the game, redshirt freshman Randall St. Felix, set a USF postseason record with 165 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.
“Barnett has a lot of heart because he wasn’t 100 percent, we all know that,” St. Felix said. “But he played like a warrior.”
Trailing 14-0, the Bulls’ only first half highlight came when senior receiver Tyre McCants took a direct snap and tossed a 38-yard touchdown pass to St. Felix.
A direct snap to the WR ... and the defense was completely fooled pic.twitter.com/XACswW6L1Y— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) December 21, 2018
Down 28-7 with nine seconds remaining and facing a fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line, USF decided to send Coby Weiss out for a 22-yard field goal.
“First three tries we didn’t get it... I didn’t want to leave out of there with no points,” Strong added. “So you get the three and it ended up being 28-10 and then we get the ball to start the second half.”
Weiss added another chip shot field goal on USF’s first drive of the second half and Barnett found an open St. Felix from 33-yards out cut the deficit to 31-20 late in the third quarter.
Marshall dashed any hopes of a USF comeback however, putting together an 11-play, 64-yard scoring drive with 6:24 left to seal it away.
“I hate it for the seniors who put so much into this program...they’ve done so much for the program that you wanted to go out and just win this game and just stop the slide and win it for them,” Strong said. “But when you don’t tackle well, you don’t execute, you don’t play well, that’s what happens.”
- Thursday was the two-month anniversary of USF’s last win (October 20 vs. UConn)
- An announced crowd of 14,135 was the lowest in the 10-year history of the Gasparilla Bowl.
- Junior linebacker Greg Reaves set a new USF postseason record with 14 total tackles.
- “We were in position to make the plays, and we didn’t make them. It’s so hard to know before we go and look at the tape. We had opportunities.” - Strong on interim offensive coordinator Justin Burke.