Through the first three weeks, the South Florida Bulls played focused, efficient football in wins over Notre Dame, Ball State, and Florida A&M. With a short week approaching and the first key conference game against Pittsburgh on the horizon, the Bulls showed signs of being mentally distracted en route to a 52-24 win over an overmatched UTEP team. The Bulls once again amassed well over 500 yards of total offense, forced turnovers, and made big plays on the ground and through the air, but glaring mental errors kept the game from being even more one sided than it otherwise would've been.
The Bulls' secondary struggled against what had been a less than stellard UTEP passing game. The Miners' Carson Meger gashed the South Florida secondary throughout the game, finishing with 244 yards and two touchdowns. One touchdown came on a nice throw that split the USF secondary from 24 yards out that cut the lead to 21-14 in the second quarter. In the third quarter, UTEP fooled the Bulls on a 4th and 1, throwing a perfect pass off of play action for a 25 yard touchdown that momentarily brought the Miners back to within 14 points. Later in the fourth quarter, the Bulls punt team allowed an easy fake punt rush for a first down and in the process lost return man Terrence Mitchel who was injured making the tackle on the play. It's not hard to imagine the Bulls' defense was caught looking ahead to the upcoming Big East opener against Pittsburgh.
Still, the Bulls continue to get stellar play from their offense. For the third consecutive week, South Florida went over 500 yards of total offense. Unlike the previous two games where BJ Daniels put up career high passing numbers, against UTEP it was the Bulls' ground game that chewed up the opposing defense. Daniels rushed for 147 yards, including a 71 yard score. Victor Marc had a 67 yard touchdown run, Demetris Murray scored from 31 yards out, and Darrell Scott was the workhorse, carrying the ball 18 times for 88 yards and a touchdown of his own. In all, the Bulls ran the ball 45 times for 373 yards, but, because of big plays only had the ball for a little over 24 minutes in the game.
Now the Bulls turn their attention to a Thursday night road trip against Big East foe Pittsburgh in what will likely be a conference title elimination game. The winner figures to be favored in every other Big East game until West Virginia at the end of the season. A loss would be a crushing blow to a South Florida team that has made winning a conference title for the first time a season goal. A win at Pittsburgh, where the program got its first ever win over a BCS Conference opponent, would be a signficant step toward reaching new heights and would likely mean USF would be undefeated heading into its final three games against Miami, Louisville, and West Virginia.