History was made on Thursday night in Tampa, but it was not the kind of history any program wants to make. South Florida (7-6) became the first program to start a season with a record of 7-0 before ending the year on a six-game losing streak. The latest loss for the Bulls came on their home field in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in the form of a 38-20 loss to Marshall (9-4) Thursday night.
At one point this season, it appeared as though USF may be able to play for at least a division title in the AAC East Division, but the second half of the season was not kind to Charlie Strong and his Bulls. The second-half slide finally came to a bumpy end in the bowl game that started off on an ominous note for USF. The Bulls fell behind the Thundering Herd 21-7 in the first quarter. A fumble shortly after falling behind 7-0 led to a quick Marshall touchdown and any momentum that appeared to be gained by coming back with a touchdown drive was quickly washed away in the rain as Marshall roared right back to regain a 14-point advantage.
USF did make things a little more interesting after halftime by cutting the Marshall lead to 31-20 with Blake Barnett completing a 33-yard touchdown pass to Randall St. Felix late in the third quarter, but that would be as close as they would get. Marshall’s offensive line paved open lanes for the running game and Keion Davis put the game out of reach with a 16-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter. It was the second touchdown of the game for Davis. Marshall proved to be too strong on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. The Herd combined for a rushing total of 282 yards while USF managed just 92 yards on the ground. Marshall did all of its scoring on the ground with Brenden Knox, Anthony Anderson and quarterback Isaiah Green all picking up rushing touchdowns to join Davis in the effort. Green also passed for 221 yards, with star receiver Tyre Brady accounting for 88 of those yards through the air.
For Marshall, although they have not played in a bowl game in seven consecutive seasons, they now own a seven-game winning streak in bowl games played that stems back to 2009. The last time Marshall ended the year with a loss in a bowl game was 2004 (of course, there were plenty of years without a bowl game at all). Doc Holliday has been the head coach for all but one of those bowl victories.
The American Athletic Conference is now 1-1 this bowl season with Tulane topping Louisiana of the Sun Belt in the Cure Bowl last weekend. Conference USA is now 2-2 this bowl season with Marshall joining UAB in the win column and North Texas and Middle Tennessee each unable to secure a bowl victory against their opponents. This was the only matchup between the AAC and Conference USA on the bowl schedule this season.
Marshall will begin the 2019 season at home on Aug. 31, 2019 with a game against VMI, followed by a road trip to Boise State in a fun little Group of Five matchup. The Herd will also face non-conference opponents from the MAC (Ohio) and AAC (Cincinnati) for a good chance to establish some bragging rights for Conference USA.
USF will also kick off the new season on Aug. 31, 2019 with a home game against the Big Ten’s Wisconsin, followed by a road game at Georgia Tech the next week.
The bowl season is still young, but we have our soggiest game of the year so far going on in Tampa. Despite playing in their home stadium, South Florida’s woes are continuing against Marshall with the Thundering Herd leading the Bulls 28-10 at halftime in the Bad Bowl Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green got the scoring started midway through the first quarter with a 10-yard run. It wouldn’t take long for Marshall to add to the lead. A botched snap by USF was recovered and returned by Darius Hodge to the one-yard line. Anthony Anderson leaped over a pile at the goal line on the very next play to make it a 14-0 lead for the Herd.
USF got on the board on their next drive when senior wide receiver Tyre McCants fooled the Marshall defense with a 38-yard pass down the field to a streaking Randall St. Felix for a much-needed score. But Marshall would fire right back on the ensuing possession to regain their 14-point edge. Brenden Knox scored on an eight-yard run at the end of a quick drive highlighted by a 42-yard pass to Tyre Brady.
Late in the second quarter, Marshall had Green pooch punt on a fourth down from the USF .34-yard line, pinning the Bulls at their own one-yard line. The Marshall defense forced a quick three-and-out to force a punt from the back of the end zone, and a 28-yard return by Marcel Williams gave Marshall a first down from the 17-yard line. That led to a Keion Davis touchdown run of five yards to build a 28-7 lead.
WHO: Marshall (8-4) vs. South Florida (7-5)
WHAT: The 11th Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
WHEN: 8:00 p.m., ET, ESPN
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
THE SKINNY: South Florida may be playing a bowl game in their home stadium, but the Bulls will do so with a rash of injuries that have taken a toll on the team this season. Among those players who have been roughed up this season is quarterback Blake Barnett, who is looking to close out his well-traversed collegiate career with a win.
A shoulder injury took Barnett out of action late in the season, leading Charlie Strong to look to sophomore Chris Oladokun as the next man up against UCF in the regular-season finale. Oladokun ended up benched in favor of Brett Kean, who also struggled. In short, quarterback play is a concern for the Bulls in this one. Marshall’s defense has given up 231.7 passing yards per game this season and the Thundering Herd have picked off 12 passes.
Injuries certainly took South Florida’s season off course. After starting the year with a record of 7-0, the Bulls limp their way into the bowl season on a five-game losing streak. Marshall is coming in much warmer, although they took a loss in their last-second addition to the schedule with a road loss to Virginia Tech to help the Hokies keep their bowl streak alive. Doc Holliday and the Herd won five of six before the Virginia Tech game.
Marshall wide receiver Tyre Brady, a former Miami Hurricane, will be the go-to receiver against a South Florida defense with 11 interceptions this season. The Bulls can also keep teams from having overwhelming success through the air, but Brady will be a constant threat all game long.
THE LINE: USF, +3
THE PREDICTION: Marshall 27, South Florida 23
Former Big East foes square off in ACC play today when Miami visits Pittsburgh for a noon kickoff. The Hurricanes, however, will be without one offensive player. Sophomore wide receiver Tyre Brady has been suspended by the team for a violation of team rules. The nature of the violation, as is usually the case, has not been clarified beyond that vague description.
Brady is eighth on Miami’s roster with 112 receiving yards and a touchdown. Brady was listed second on the two-deep depth chart for Miami behind starter Herb Waters, Miami’s second-leading receiver with 585 yards and a touchdown.
It was just one half, but Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya is having himself a nice ballgame down in Miami. Kaaya has already thrown for over 220 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Hurricanes, who lead Nebraska 20-3 at the halftime break.
Kaaya has found something working with wide receiver Rashawn Scott against the Huskers. Scott is Miami’s leading receiver with 114 yards, but the touchdowns have been thrown to Tyre Brady and Christopher Herndon IV. Kaaya has completed a pass to seven different receivers, keeping Nebraska on their toes going to the break.
Nebraska’s quarterback, Tommy Armstrong, has struggled to get going, completing seven of his 13 passes for 65 yards at halftime. The Huskers running game has also not done a whole lot just yet, with Terrell Newby rushing for 41 yards at halftime. Penalties have also haunted Nebraska, with seven first-half penalties for 65 yards.
Nebraska is going to need a big second half. Otherwise the Huskers will be taking a 1-2 record back to Lincoln with them. Al Golden, on the other hand, will suddenly feel a little better about his job security. Maybe.