TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Another prime-time television appearance ended on a sour note for South Florida, however coach Skip Holtz rejects the notion that the Bulls are hexed when they play on Thursday night.
A frustrated Holtz said turnovers — not bad luck — were responsible for a disappointing 23-13 Big East loss to Rutgers.
The Bulls dropped to 0-9 in Thursday night games broadcast on ESPN. Three of the losses have been to Rutgers, including five years ago when USF was ranked No. 2 in the country.
“There’s no curse, there’s no cloud, there’s no Rutgers has got our number,” Holtz said after Jawan Jamison rushed for 151 yards and a late touchdown for the Scarlet Knights.
B.J. Daniels threw three interceptions, the Bulls lost a fumble, and they also failed to score on two drives deep into Rutgers territory.
“We just made too many mistakes to come away with a victory,” Holtz said.’
Jamison had his fourth consecutive 100-yard game dating to last season, the longest string of 100-yard performances by a Rutgers player since Ray Rice had seven straight to end the 2007 season.
Gary Nova threw for 277 yards and one touchdown for the Scarlet Knights, who snapped a 13-13 tie on Federico’s 22-yard field goal with 2:48 remaining. A little over a minute later, Jamison scored on a 41-yard run after USF (2-1, 0-1) turned the ball over on downs at its own 42.
Jamison, who began the season with 100-yard days against Tulane and Howard, finished with a school single-game record 41 carries.
“I told him during the week to get ready for 35,” Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. “I did not anticipate 41, but he did an excellent job with it.”
Mark Harrison scored on a 6-yard reception, Federico also kicked field goals of 51 and 30 yards, and Rutgers (3-0, 1-0) forced four turnovers — three while the Scarlet Knights were taking control in the third quarter.
No conference team has had more success against USF since the Bulls entered the Big East in 2005 than Rutgers, which has won six of the past seven meetings.
Most of that success came under former coach Greg Schiano, who left Rutgers for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after last season. He got his first NFL win at Raymond James Stadium last Sunday and was able to make the short trip from his office to catch some of the nationally televised game before heading to the locker room to congratulate his old team.
Daniels completed 15 of 33 passes for 242 yards for USF, which fell to 0-9 in Thursday night TV appearances. The dual-threat quarterback rushed for a team-high 68 yards but he was unable get the Bulls into the end zone until he completed a 30-yard pass to Derrick Hopkins, setting up Demetris Murray’s 1-yard TD run to make it 13-all with 9 minutes left.
Maikon Bonani kicked field goals of 41 and 46 yards to help USF to a 6-3 halftime lead, however the Bulls were hardly dominating up to that point.
Rutgers outgained them by more than a two to one margin in the opening quarter, yet trailed 6-0 because of a string of mistakes that that stymied the offense. In addition to being penalized four times for 35 yards, the Scarlet Knights had a 42-yard field goal attempt blocked and punt returned Mason Robinson fumbled at his own 36 to set up Bonani’s second field goal.
Daniels threw three touchdown passes of 50-plus yards, two of them in the final 2:37 to help USF rally for a 32-31 victory at Nevada. But Rutgers has done as good a job as any team in containing the Bulls’ dual-threat quarterback during a career in which Daniels has accounted for more than 8,700 yards total offense.
The Scarlet Knights intercepted four of Daniels’ passes while limiting him to 438 yards passing and three touchdowns in three previous meetings. They won two of those matchups, blanking USF 31-0 in 2009 and 20-17 a year ago, when Rutgers won in overtime after Bonani missed a 27-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.
Daniels’ success was sporadic again. Much of his 125 yards passing in the opening half came on two completions — a 44-yarder to Andre Davis and a 58-yarder to Terrence Mitchell. Neither led to points, with Rutgers stopping the Bulls on downs after one of the catches and cornerback Brandon Jones intercepting a pass at the Scarlet Knights 23 following the other.
“You don’t ever stop B.J. Daniels. He made some spectacular plays today, some deep completions,” Flood said. “He makes plays out of broken plays. He makes the plays he should. We were fortunate to hold that team to the points that we did. It was a great effort by our defense.”
Holtz said the Bulls will regroup and prepare for next week’s nonconference game at Ball State.
“You don’t let a win this early make your season and you certainly don’t let a loss this early take away from the season you have the ability to have,” Holtz said.
“I’ve said this before, we’re a work in progress. … There are some things we have to correct,” the coach added. “But the thing we’ve got to do if we want to have any chance at all, we cannot turned the ball over.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.