CINCINNATI - In a season speckled with injuries, the Bulls enjoyed a rare taste of continuity Saturday. For the first time, USF had the same starting lineup on offense and defense as it did the week before.
It doesn't look as if that streak will continue.
USF's secondary, as depleted by injuries as any position, took a significant loss when cornerback D'Juan Brown injured his left wrist in the second quarter. Brown, a junior who has started every game, watched the second half from the sideline with his left arm in a sling, unsure of the severity of his injury or whether he'd be able to play in the final two games.
Senior Bruce Gipson and redshirt freshman Mike Jenkins, already regulars in the defensive rotation, filled in for Brown on a night when the Bulls gave up a school-record 577 yards.
The Bulls were still in the game when they lost Brown. With USF trailing 14-10, he came off holding his wrist after Bearcats receiver Hannibal Thomas ran past him on a screen play in the second quarter.
It wasn't the only damage Cincinnati's top target did to the Bulls. Thomas had 10 catches for 162 yards, frustrating USF coaches with his ability to get open against a defense focused on stopping him.
"We've got to have a way to stop 9 (Thomas)," coach Jim Leavitt said. "I don't care if we put 11 guys on him and have vapor maybe try to stop the rest of them."
NOT SO COLD: The Bulls were prepared for their coldest game of the year, though overcast skies made for a temperate day with a kickoff temperature of 59 degrees. Two weeks ago, USF saw forecasts for a temperature in the 30s, and in anticipation equipment manager Jeff Parsons bought 90 pairs of black, white and green heavyweight sleeves, designed to keep players warm in temperatures less than 55 degrees without reducing mobility and flexibility.
BAD STARTS: Field position was an issue from the start as the Bulls opened three of their first four drives inside their 20. Of USF's 12 possessions, none started farther than the USF 34, and the Bulls went a stretch of seven drives without moving beyond the Cincinnati 49.
MUCH BETTER: Nearly perfect field position set up USF's second touchdown, however, as Bruce Gipson was able to down a Brandon Baker punt inside the Cincinnati 1. Two plays later, Richard Hall fumbled in the end zone, and Craig Kobel fell on the loose ball for a touchdown, tying the score at 17. It was the first time USF recovered a fumble in the end zone since Ron Hemingway did it at East Carolina in 2002.
THIS AND THAT: Cincinnati hadn't given up a sack during its three-game win streak entering Saturday. USF's sack came from freshman safety Danny Verpaele, who has sacks in consecutive games. ... Tight end Mark Feldman, a senior from Clearwater Central Catholic who missed USF's first seven games with a knee injury, had his first catch of the season, a 12-yard reception in the fourth quarter. ... Linebacker Ronnie McCullough, a redshirt freshman from Hillsborough High, tied for the team lead with 10 total tackles. ... Junior defensive Jon Simmons, another Clearwater Central Catholic graduate, blocked a Bearcats field-goal attempt on the last play of the first half.