Commentary | For USF, this unbelievable loss should be the last straw

adell@bradenton.comOctober 28, 2012 

TAMPA

Just when you thought it was over, it wasn't and then it was and unfortunately for USF it wasn't.

And the pain continues.

But nothing will hurt more than this game.

USF led 23-3 at halftime and seemed to have the game in hand. Everything was going the Bulls' way and then the curse of Skip Holtz, or whatever you want to call it, came.

Final score: Syracuse 37-36 Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium, which seemed like a funeral home.

USF has now lost 12 of its past 13 Big East games, and the bleeding continues. It's time to say goodbye to Holtz.

It was obvious USF had the better athletes. They had more speed, they had more athleticism. They out-quicked Syracuse, but they couldn't beat them.

It ruined what would've been a great night for Mark Bonani. He was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts.

It ruined a career game for Lindsey Lamar, who gained a career-high 145 yards rushing on only 10

carries.

Remember that's the guy Holtz wanted to redshirt this season?

B.J. Daniels ran for 134 yards on 12 carries and hit 17 of 30 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't his fault the Bulls lost. It is rarely his fault, though everyone seems to want to blame on it the quarterback.

"I am speechless on this. I am proud of this team for the way they competed," Holtz said. "When you play pass defense the way we play pass defense, it makes it hard. They came out (second half) and it was 21 points that quick. We couldn't get the stop (at the end).

"On their last drive, we played a lot of different coverages, and we gave up the middle of the field. It's heartbreaking and disappointing that we couldn't get it done. I got to find an answer."

This was another breakdown by the defense and the coaching staff. Sorry if that hurts anyone's feelings. But this has happened too much.

The Bulls are allowing opponents to complete nearly 70 percent of their passes.

On its game winning drive, Syracuse trailed 36-31 and had a first and 10 at its own 25 with 1:23 left. The Orange marched down field as if there were no defense. The same way Rutgers and Ball State and others did.

Orange QB Ryan Nassib completed 6 of 8 passes on the drive, including three passes totaling 59 yards to Marcus Sales. He fought off penalties, but he didn't have to fight off much from a USF defense that again played.

The Bulls didn't offer up much of a rush. They played behind the receivers, particularly Sales, and gave them big cushions. They made it a lot easier than it should have been.

The receivers were wide open. USF defensive coordinator Chris Cosh was down on the field, but it didn't matter.

"We can't stay status quo (on defense)," Holtz said. "I have to look at the film. I don't think you can just point a finger at the secondary. Right now we are not very good on pass defense. It depends on the rush and other things."

USF is still the only major college football team in America that doesn't have an interception. But right now they have more pain than any team in the 50 states.

This was homecoming. They had a big lead. They had momentum. They had everything going for themselves when they walked into halftime with a 23-3 lead.

Syracuse didn't waste any time. The Orange scored on their first three possessions of the second half. The first drive was 84 yards, but the other two were short. One for 45 yards on a blocked punt and the other 23 after a fumble recovery.

The Bulls appeared to be going into the tank again. But Bonani saved them and then there was a superlative catch by Andre Davis where he looked like the Bucs Vincent Jackson.

It was there and then it wasn't.

The pain in that locker-room has to be surreal. Somehow the USF administration needs to find $2.5 million to buy out Holtz and let him go. The players deserve better. The fans deserve better.

This is not about him personally; it's about his coaching. He has had enough time. He is either overwhelmed or not in the right place.

His resume never showed greatness. It revealed a guy who might be able to do something. But the only thing that is happening is that the pain is getting unbearable.

The Bulls rushed for 273 yards in the first half against a Syracuse team that had allowed a combined 58 yards rushing in its last three games.

And then it all came apart, slowly by slowly. It's happened too many times. A change needs to be made. The cost doesn't matter. There will be no bowl game this year so think of the money lost there.

Alan Dell, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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