TAMPA -- The final game of the season and senior night resulted in another loss for the Bulls, as USF wrapped up a disappointing season in a 27-3 loss to Pittsburgh at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night.
Pittsburgh (6-6, 3-4 Big East) extended its winning streak to five against USF (3-9, 1-6 Big East). It was a crucial win for Pittsburgh, as the Panthers became eligible for invitation to one of the Big East’s six bowl games. The invitation would make it their fifth consecutive postseason appearance.
USF quarterback Matt Floyd was picked off on his first series by Jason Hendricks, who returned it for 11 yards to the Bulls 21 yard line.
The Bulls defense stood strong but a penalty gave up crucial yardage that allowed Ray Graham to rush one yard for a touchdown, as Pittsburgh went up 7-0 with 8:33 left in the first quarter.
Floyd threw his second interception on a third and goal at the Pittsburgh six-yard line with 5:05 remaining in the opening quarter. Todd Thomas returned it 33 yards to the Panthers 38 before Floyd managed to make a potential touchdown saving tackle.
Floyd would turn the ball over a third time in the first quarter, when he was sacked by Shayne Hale and fumbled at the USF 24-yard line.
In the second quarter, USF’s defense had crucial goal line stands that forced Pittsburgh to settle for two field goals. Kevin Harper made 25 and 27-yarders to extend Pittsburgh’s lead 13-0.
Graham scored his second touchdown in similar fashion, punching it in from one yard out and putting the Panthers up 20-0 with 8:48 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers continued to dominate as five minutes later Tino Sunseri connected with J.P. Holtz for a two yard touchdown and the Bulls trailed 27-0.
The Bulls managed a third and goal at the Panthers eight-yard line, and the coaches sent in the field goal unit, resulting in an uproar of boos from the USF fans.
However, the Bulls managed to get on the scoreboard as Maikon Bonani nailed a 26-yarder to cut their deficit to 27-3 with 9:41 remaining in the game.
When Coach Skip Holtz was asked about how the boos felt from the fans, he responded “I understand their frustrations, and I’m booing me too.”
Overall, Pittsburgh controlled the game with an overwhelming time of possession of 41:30 to USF’s 18:30.
When asked if any changes needed to be made on his coaching staff, Coach Holtz responded “Yes, I would definitely think some of those things would need to be done”.