The South Florida Bulls, fresh off two consecutive last-second wins, continued the self-generated drama with a 17-9 win over Florida International University Saturday.
Two weeks ago, the Bulls defeated in-state UCF in overtime, 31-24. Last week, a last-second field goal to end regulation pushed the Bulls past Kansas, 37-34. Both games drew close as the Bulls defense yielded 14-point leads late in each game.
Many fans expected a less stressful game this week for the No. 12 Bulls. FIU, after all, was winless, had yet to score a touchdown in 2008, and featured a defense that had given up an average of 41 points per game.
Instead, the Bulls played flat and uninspired much of the game. The first USF drive ended with a fumble in Bulls territory. On the second possession, the Bulls had their best stretch on offense, as Matt Grothe engineered a 99-yard drive that ended with a Mike Ford two-yard touchdown run.
The Bulls did not find the end zone again until 3:07 in the third, when Ford capped off another drive (54 yards) with a one-yard touchdown carry. In between, the Bulls' Maikon Bonani, the hero in the Kansas game, drilled a 20-yard field goal, accounting for the rest of USF's points.
"We got the win," Grothe said in published reports, "but we should have played a lot better."
The Panthers scored nine points in the fourth quarter, two after Ford was tackled in the end zone for a safety. FIU added its touchdown with 53 seconds left in the game when Julian Reams punched it in from one yard out.
The Bulls have now given up 37 points in the fourth quarter over the last three games.
"We played about as bad as we could have played," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "I don't see how we could have played worse."
As noted, the Bulls did get Ford back for this game. He looked a little rusty, but did not seemed bothered by the high ankle sprain. On the injury front, Bulls linebacker Brouce Mompremier was taken to the hospital after a collision with teammate Carlton Williams. Mompremier is undergoing a CT Scan and MRI on his neck.
Williams eventually got up and was helped off the field. George Selvie left the game early, apparently with a lightly sprained ankle.
USF’s win over FIU gives them a 4-0 start for the third time in the program’s history. The Bulls also accomplished the feat in 1998 (5-0) and 2007 (6-0).
The Bulls next meet NC State in Raleigh, NC on Sept. 27. The Wolfpack beat No. 15 ECU today, 30-24.