TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jake Elliott kicked a pair of first-half field goals, one of them a 56-yarder that hit the crossbar and bounced through to help Memphis beat sputtering South Florida 23-10 for the Tigers’ first American Athletic Conference victory on Saturday night.
The Tigers (3-6, 1-4) broke open a close game, driving 59 yards in plays following a punt to score on a 5-yard run by Brandon Hayes to make it 13-3 with 4:09 remaining.
Dion Witty’s interception and 22-yard return set up Elliott’s third field goal of the night, and Bobby McCain ran back a pick 37 yards for a touchdown to turn it into a rout.
USF (2-7, 2-3) avoided going without an offensive touchdown for the fifth time when Mike White threw a 31-yard TD pass to Andre Davis with 46 seconds left. The loss was the third straight for the Bulls, who began conference play with wins over Cincinnati and Connecticut despite not scoring an offensive TD in either game.
Paxton Lynch completed just 6 of 13 passes for 59 yards, no touchdowns and an interception for Memphis. But the Tigers rushed for 183 yards, with Hayes finishing with 78 on 20 carries.
White was 18 of 33 for 198 yards, one TD and four interceptions for USF in his second college start. The Bulls also lost a first-half fumble that rolled into the Memphis end zone for a touchback.
White is the fourth different starting quarterback USF has had this season. The true freshman made his debut late in a lopsided loss to Louisville, and the Bulls had their best offensive showing of the year when he threw for 311 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in his first start at Houston.
Davis had nine receptions for 134 yards as part of the season-best 346-yard offensive performance the Bulls put together against Houston, however White had difficulty getting the ball to the talented receiver — or anyone else, for that matter — consistently against the Memphis secondary.
The young quarterback threw an interception that Memphis turned into a first-quarter field goal, USF’s Marvin Kloss missed field goal attempts of 49 and 55 yards, and Lawrence Martin fumbled into the end zone from the Memphis 1 to deny the Bulls points on their most promising drive of the opening half.
The frustration continued in the third quarter, when USF — with help from a couple of costly penalties on Memphis — drove inside the Tigers 20 only to settle for a 28-yard field goal.
Davis had seven catches for 110 yards, but much of his production came late. Overall, the Bulls outgained the Tigers 325 yards to 242.
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