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.