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USF drops opportunity at second upset, and Miami takes advantage

NO.9 MIAMI 27, USF 7: The Bulls' five first-half turnovers make it too easy for the Hurricanes.

By GREG AUMAN
Published October 2, 2005


MIAMI - Last week USF showed it could make a grand entrance into the Big East. On Saturday night the Bulls showed that breaking into the "Big Four" is a little tougher to pull off.

A week after a stunning 45-14 upset of then-No.9 Louisville, the Bulls were a different team, doomed by early mistakes in a 27-7 loss to No.9 Miami before a crowd of 58,308 at the Orange Bowl.

In its first test against one of the state's Big Three football programs, USF (3-2) sputtered through one of its worst offensive performances. Until the Bulls scored with 5:56 remaining, they faced the possibility of being shut out for the first time in their nine-year history.

The school-record low for total offensive yards was 126 yards entering the game, and USF had 82 entering the fourth quarter.

Much of the damage Saturday was self-inflicted, as the Bulls committed five turnovers in the first half, as many as they'd totaled in the previous four games this season. Those turnovers included three in a span of nine offensive plays that helped Miami (3-1) to a 17-0 first-quarter lead. It was the same score by which the Bulls fell behind early in the season opener at Penn State, and again, strong defensive play the rest of the way ended up not being enough.

Junior quarterback Pat Julmiste, who had gone 108 consecutive passes without an interception in one stretch last month, threw three picks in the first half and was benched in favor of sophomore Courtney Denson, who played poorly enough to bring Julmiste back into the game.

Julmiste, who attended nearby Miramar High, made his first mistake on a pass that sailed high for the first of two interceptions by redshirt freshman Lovon Ponder, who was making his first start for the Hurricanes. Miami converted that into a 33-yard field goal from Clearwater's Jon Peattie, and the Hurricanes got the ball back three plays later.

Julmiste threw a short pass to receiver Johnny Peyton, who fumbled, setting up Miami on the USF 39. It took five tries inside the 4-yard line, but the Hurricanes got a 1-yard run from Tyrone Moss for a 10-0 lead.

Even when the Bulls were able to avoid turnovers and get off a punt, that found its way to Miami's Devin Hester, who returned the punt 28 yards to the USF 19. Moss scored on the next play for a 17-0 lead.

Peyton factored in another turnover, deflecting a pass that was intercepted by Hester and returned to the USF 3. Wright fumbled a snap, however, and USF's Tim Jones recovered the loose ball.

From there USF's defense stepped up, holding Miami to three points in the rest of the half and no points in the third quarter. Wright found tight end Greg Olsen for what looked to be a 62-yard touchdown before the half, but USF cornerback Mike Jenkins caught up to him at the 6 and popped the ball loose, and the fumble went through the end zone for a touchback.

USF's turnovers made winning easy for the Hurricanes. On Miami's four first-half scoring drives, the average starting position was the USF 32.

Miami's defense focused on slowing down running back Andre Hall, who was held to 36 yards on 13 first-half carries. The Hurricanes challenged the Bulls to beat them through the air, and Julmiste and Denson never came close. They totaled 24 passing yards in the first three quarters on 20 attempts.

The closest the Bulls came to scoring in the first three quarters was a 42-yard field goal attempt by Kyle Bronson that missed wide left.

Considering the Hurricanes fumbled twice inside the USF 10, the final margin could have been much greater. The Bulls entered the game as 21-point underdogs, and didn't fall below that until Moss' third touchdown on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 8:25 left.

The Bulls countered with their only sustained drive of the game, which ended with Pat Julmiste's 14-yard touchdown pass to Peyton with 5:56 to play. The ensuing onsides kick went out of bounds without being touched.

USF hadn't trailed since its season-opening loss at Penn State, cruising to three easy home wins against Florida A&M, Central Florida and Louisville. The crowd was the fifth-largest ever to see the Bulls play, but they dropped to 0-6 in games attended by more than 50,000 fans.

The Bulls won't have another shot at the state's Big Three until they travel to Gainesville to play Florida in 2008. They now have a week off before starting a string of six Big East games at Pittsburgh on Oct. 15.

The rest of USF's season will hinge on whether the Bulls play like they did in upsetting Louisville, or like the team that made it easy for Miami on Saturday night.