Sep 9, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe (4) celebrates after hitting Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jermaine Burton (3) for a touchdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Texas defeated Alabama 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr. -USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Alabama looking to outclass South Florida

No. 10 Alabama failed its first big test of the season and will attempt to achieve a higher grade on Saturday when it faces South Florida in non-conference play at Tampa, Fla.

The Crimson Tide fell 34-24 at home to then-No. 11 Texas last weekend, a setback that delivered a big blow to Alabama’s national championship aspirations.

“It was a test for everybody,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said of the Week 2 showdown. “It was a test for the coaches, it was a test for me, it was a test for all the players.

“And we obviously didn’t do very well. But it’s the mid-term, it’s not the final.”

The loss also ended Alabama’s streak of 57 regular-season non-conference victories. The run dated to 2007 — Saban’s first season — when Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe 21-14.

The Crimson Tide (1-1) will aim to start a new streak against the Bulls (1-1), who dropped a school-record 11 straight games before posting a 38-24 win over FCS program Florida A&M last Saturday.

Alabama guard Tyler Booker said there is no reason for the players to hang their heads.

“All our goals are still attainable,” he said. “We can still win the SEC West. We can get a College Football Playoff spot. This was just a wake-up call for us, and we’re all taking heed to what coach is saying.”

Said linebacker Dallas Turner: “We can’t let a game from Week 2 determine how our season’s going to be. There’s still a lot more things to look forward to.”

Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe was just 14-of-27 passing but totaled 299 yards (255 passing, 44 rushing) against Texas while displaying progress. He has passed for 449 yards and five touchdowns, with two interceptions, in two games and also has two rushing scores and a team-high 92 yards on the ground.

South Florida has a new coach in Alex Golesh, who is very familiar to the Crimson Tide.

Golesh was offensive coordinator at Tennessee last season when the Volunteers notched a 52-49 home win over Alabama.

Golesh doesn’t have similar talent this time around but is planning to use the game as a measuring stick.

“It’s another step for the growth of our program,” Golesh said. “That’s obviously a big-time football program and a big-time coaching staff. It’ll be really, really cool to see us go and compete against one of the better teams in the country. If you want to say you want to be a top 20 program, you’ve got to go play against those guys.”

Golesh is certainly facing a big task. The Bulls have lost 17 straight games against FBS competition dating to a 34-14 home victory over Temple on Oct. 23, 2021.

He looked at the win over Florida A&M as the start of putting the foundation in place.

“It has to be process-driven here,” Golesh said. “I know the expectation is to win — and it should be. But there has to be a foundation laid here and in anything, whether it’s life or business. I felt like we walked into a situation where there was no foundation, there was no identity.”

South Florida quarterback Byrum Brown has passed for 363 yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions. He has four rushing scores and leads the Bulls with 183 rushing yards.

Alabama won the lone previous meeting 40-17 in 2003.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Offensive Coordinator Alex Golesh calls during fall practice at Haslam Field in Knoxville, Tenn. on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

Kns Tennessee Fall Practice

USF hires Tennessee OC Alex Golesh as head coach

South Florida officially named Alex Golesh as the sixth head coach in program history on Sunday.

He replaces Jeff Scott, who was fired in November after a 1-8 start.

Special teams coordinator Daniel Da Prato closed out the season as interim coach and the Bulls finished 1-11 overall, 0-8 in the American Athletic Conference.

“We are thrilled to welcome Coach Golesh as the new leader of our program,” USF athletic director Michael Kelly said. “He is a dynamic coach and recruiter who is relentless in pursuit of excellence, as evidenced by his outstanding track record of elevating numerous programs. He also happens to be one of the most creative and successful offensive minds in college football.”

Golesh, 38, is a finalist for the 2022 Broyles Award as the nation’s best assistant coach for his work this season as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee. His Volunteers lead the nation in total offense (538.1 yards per game) and scoring (47.3 points per game).

Golesh has prior experience coaching in Florida, working as the co-offensive coordinator at UCF in 2020 before joining the staff at Tennessee in 2021.

“I’m excited to be back in the state of Florida and work with the great high school coaches in this state,” Golesh said. “This program will have an identity both offensively and defensively, and with special teams.

“We will be the most aggressive team in the country, both on the field and on the recruiting trail.”

His coaching history also includes stops at Iowa State, Illinois and Toledo. This is Golesh’s first head coaching job.

He inherits a program in Tampa, Fla., that has fallen on hard times, going 4-26 in two-plus seasons under Scott.

The Bulls posted back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins in 2016 and 2017 under coaches Willie Taggart and Charlie Strong, respectively.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; UCF Knights quarterback John Rhys Plume (10) scrambles with the ball as South Florida Bulls safety Will Jones II (7) defends during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 UCF survives USF after blowing 24-point lead

Backup quarterback Mikey Keene tossed a touchdown pass with 20 seconds left and No. 22 UCF escaped with a 46-39 victory over host South Florida on Saturday night in Tampa, Fla.

The Knights had to rally after squandering a 24-point lead in the third quarter.

UCF earned a berth in the American Athletic Conference championship game. The Knights (9-3, 6-2 AAC) will play regular-season winner Tulane in New Orleans next Saturday.

Keene took over in the second half when starter John Rhys Plumlee left the game after apparently aggravating a hamstring injury.

Plumlee rushed for 133 yards and was 9-of-9 passing for 73 yards and a score in the first half in leading UCF to a 28-0 lead midway through the second quarter and a 28-7 cushion at the break.

Keene finished 15-of-19 passing for 129 yards and hit Javon Baker with a 41-yard pass to South Florida’s 29-line on the final drive before connecting with Holler on a 14-yard strike for the decisive score. He also had a TD pass to Kobe Hudson.

Byrum Brown was 13-for-20 for 140 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulls (1-11, 0-8 AAC). His 42-yard TD run gave the Bulls a 39-38 lead with 7:02 remaining but his final pass into the end zone as time ran out fell incomplete.

Brian Battie posted his fifth consecutive triple-digit rushing game to tie a school record set by Jordan Cronkrite in 2012. Battie ended up with 144 yards on 19 carries, including a 14-yard touchdown run.

After their early dominance, the Knights had a disastrous third quarter.

The Bulls scored on Brown’s 4-yard run to start the second half, then took advantage of UCF fumbles on consecutive series to add two more scores to outscore the Knights 22-3 in the third quarter.

The Bulls had a scoring opportunity in the first quarter end when Brown’s fumble at UCF’s 4-yard line sailed into the end zone, where Justin Hodges recovered for a touchback.

The Bulls put together a 15-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped by Brown’s 2-yard pass to Sean Atkins with just 40 seconds left in the second quarter before the flood gates opened in the third quarter.

–Field Level Media

SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) lets go of a pass during Saturday's game against ACU at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas on Sept. 4, 2021. Mordecai threw an SMU-record seven touchdowns as the Mustangs won 56-9.

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SMU looks for offensive encore against struggling USF

SMU, off a record-setting offensive performance, looks to guarantee a spot in the postseason when it travels to struggling South Florida on Saturday afternoon in an American Athletic Conference game in Tampa.

The Mustangs (5-4, 3-2 AAC) roll into Saturday’s game on the strength of an eye-popping 77-63 win at home over Houston on Nov. 5. SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai racked up nine touchdown passes, including seven in the first half, along with 379 passing yards and a rushing TD in the victory.

Mordecai now has an SMU-record 13 games with 300 passing yards or more in his career. SMU has won two straight games and is still in the thick of the race for the conference championship game berth and a bowl game.

“I’ll say this about this team,” said Mordecai, who transferred from Oklahoma before the 2021 season. “I’ve been on different teams, different coaches, this team. But this team, no matter what, we play hard. One thing you can’t say is that we don’t lay it all out, so that’s what I’m really proud of.”

Five SMU receivers had at least one touchdown catch in the win, led by Ben Redding’s three scoring receptions. The Mustangs scored touchdowns on their first nine drives of the game.

The 140 combined points set the FBS single-season scoring record for two teams in regulation. The Mustangs established program records for points in a game, total touchdowns (11), passing touchdowns (nine) and 433 total yards in the first half.

USF (1-8, 0-5) is at the bottom of the league standings and heads home after a 54-28 loss at Temple on Nov. 5. Coach Jeff Scott was fired on Sunday a day after the Bulls dropped their seventh consecutive game. USF’s only win this season came against Howard, an FCS team, on Sept. 10.

Scott’s 4-26 record over two-plus seasons is the worst in state history among major-college coaches who lasted more than one year. The Bulls also fired defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. USF elevated special teams coordinator Daniel Da Prato to interim coach while former co-coordinator Ernie Sims will head the defense for the final three games.

“In the days ahead, I will share information about our search for a new head coach,” USF Athletic Director Michael Kelly said. “Our focus right now is on the talented young men in our football program.”

South Florida’s defense allowed 621 yards in the loss to Temple. The Bulls are 129th out of 131 teams in points allowed per game (39.9) and 130th in average total yards allowed (502.9).

–Field Level Media

Sep 24, 2022; Louisville, Kentucky, USA;  South Florida Bulls receiver Yusuf Terry (9) catches a pass under the pressure of Louisville Cardinals defensive back Kei'Trel Clark (13) during the second quarter at Cardinal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Malik Cunningham’s dual attack leads Louisville past USF

Malik Cunningham rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 186 yards and a score as Louisville dominated South Florida 41-3 Saturday afternoon in Louisville, Ky.

The Cardinals (2-2) amassed 542 yards in total offense with 283 rushing while holding the Bulls (1-3) to 158 in total yardage and a meager 48 on the ground. That’s the lowest rushing total for an opponent since Louisville held Virginia to 35 yards last year.

Cunningham’s output moved the senior into a tie for second in program history in career touchdowns with 20 and into third place among Cardinal rushers with 3,014 yards. He is fifth in career passing yards with 8,629 yards.

The loss extended USF’s road losing streak to 14 games as its offense never got in gear. Gerry Bohanon Jr. was only 9-of-17 passing for 62 yards before turning game over to Katravis Marsh early in the third quarter. Marsh finished 4-of-11 for 48 yards in his first action of the season.

After punting on the opening series, the Cardinals scored touchdowns on their next four possessions with Cunningham scoring on rushes of 40, 35, and 8 yards and throwing a 26-yard pass to Jaelin Carter to take a 28-0 lead into the break.

Cunning had more rushing yards (106) than passing (100) in the first half as the Cardinals amassed 329 yards in total offense to just 84 for the Bulls.

South Florida managed 22 yards on the ground and had three turnovers, two on Bohanon’s fifth and sixth interceptions of the season, through the first half.

The Bulls foiled Louisville’s shutout bid on Spencer Shrader’s 37-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals responded with Tyler Evans’ 3-yard scoring run to make it 38-3 and James Turner added a second field goal to round out the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Provo, Utah, USA;  Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) runs the ball in the first quarter against the Virginia Cavaliers at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 BYU takes early-season prowess to South Florida

Opening a season on a winning note has become embedded in BYU’s DNA.

The No. 25 Cougars have plenty of reasons to feel optimistic when they travel to Tampa, Fla., to face South Florida in the season opener for both teams on Saturday.

BYU is 5-1 in season openers under head coach Kalani Sitake, with the loss coming against archrival Utah in 2019. The Cougars have won 13 of their last 15 season openers.

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall attributes a willingness to do homework for the program’s win-early tendencies.

“You have more time to study their scheme, plays, and watching film than for a normal game week,” Hall said. “The more you can burn all of that into your memory, then when you’re in the stadium, you can turn off your brain, stop thinking and go have fun. You can allow all your preparation to come out through your energy.”

Hall will be eager to show what he can do against the Bulls. The fifth-year junior was sidelined with a rib injury when the Cougars beat South Florida 35-27 last season to open the schedule with a 4-0 record.

Former BYU quarterback Baylor Romney filled in and threw for 305 yards with three touchdowns. Hall made his first career start when the two teams met at Tampa in 2019 – a 27-23 loss for BYU.

Figuring out how to contain Hall will be a dilemma for the Bulls. Hall had a 156.1 pass efficiency rating last season and posted four 300-yard games in 10 starts. He had 2,583 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air overall.

South Florida has defeated just one FBS opponent over the last two seasons, although the trend could change in a hurry in 2022.

The Bulls are returning 18 starters from last season’s 2-10 squad while adding key transfers. Baylor transfer Gerry Bohanon won the starting quarterback job in fall camp. South Florida top rusher Jaren Mangham and top receiver Xavier Weaver are both back to lead the offense.

The infusion of transfers with veteran contributors already has had a positive impact on team culture.

“I think my first two years, a lot of guys were trying to find a way off the field,” USF coach Jeff Scott said. “They were trying to find ways not to practice, not to take reps, and just wait until game day. That culture has shifted where guys are now out there pushing themselves and encouraging their teammates.”

BYU was preparing to face hot and humid conditions at Tampa on Saturday. Now there’s a chance the Cougars could be dealing with rain instead. The team is fully prepared to handle either scenario.

“We have had some practices already where it has been kinda wet and had a scrimmage that was kind of wet,” Sitake said. “I don’t know if we really need to flood the field or put the ball in a bucket of water. We just show up and play. They have to play in the same weather that we play in, too.”

BYU’s lone previous win in the state of Florida was a 49-23 triumph over UCF in the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Provo, Utah, USA; South Florida Bulls running back Jaren Mangham (0) reacts to the Brigham Young Cougars fans after his touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Brigham Young Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Tulane looks to end winless streak vs. skidding South Florida

South Florida is trying to avoid falling into the American Athletic Conference cellar.

Tulane will try to pull the Bulls into the cellar with it when the two teams meet Saturday in New Orleans.

USF (2-8, 1-5 AAC) has lost its last three games, but has managed to stay in second-to-last place, tied with Temple, just ahead of the Green Wave (1-9, 0-6) who have lost eight consecutive games.

“A lot of people outside this program and not in our locker room will look at our record and say, ‘Oh man, Tulane’s a 1-9 team,’” Green Wave linebacker Nick Anderson said. “But anybody watching the games knows that our record does not show who we really are.”

The Green Wave have lost to four teams that were ranked at the time they played them — Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and SMU.

Tulane had opportunities to win its last two games, losing a 10-7 fourth-quarter lead at UCF two weeks ago and missing a potential game-winning 26-yard field goal at the end of regulation and falling to Tulsa in overtime at home last Saturday.

“Everybody would like to scream and yell and go off,” coach Willie Fritz said of the near misses. “But it’s not going to do anything.”

USF fell behind No. 5 Cincinnati, 31-7, before scoring 14 straight then losing 45-28 at home last Friday.

“We put a lot into that game, and we really expected to go out and play better in the first half than we did,” coach Jeff Scott said. “We just dug too big of a hole.”

Scott took solace in how his team responded in the second half. It gained just 35 yards in the first half and gained 309 in the second half on its way to scoring the most points this season against a Bearcats defense that entered the game allowing just 14.9 points per game, the third lowest in the country.

But the Bulls’ defense couldn’t slow down the Bearcats offense. USF has allowed a total of 128 points during its losing streak.

“It’s frustrating,” Scott said. “We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got two games to figure it out. We’re just too inconsistent in some of our alignments and executions defensively.”

Jaren Mangham has 15 rushing touchdowns this season, tied for second in school history and just three shy of the school record.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats running back Charles McClelland (0) runs with the ball in the second quarter against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Ridder sets school TD mark as No. 5 Cincinnati moves to 10-0

Desmond Ridder set a program record for career touchdown passes as No. 5 Cincinnati held on for a 45-28 victory over South Florida in American Athletic Conference play Friday night in Tampa, Fla.

The Bearcats (10-0, 6-0 AAC) ran off 31 consecutive points starting late in the first quarter and continuing through the first series of the third quarter, and they rode that cushion to the end.

The Bulls (2-8, 1-5) got two rushing touchdowns from Jaren Mangham, and Jimmy Horn Jr. took a short pass from Timmy McClain 80 yards for a touchdown.

They got their final touchdown on McClain’s 2-yard scamper in the fourth quarter to close to within 38-28 before Cincinnati’s Ryan Montgomery closed out the scoring with a 55-yard touchdown run.

Even with leading rusher Jerome Ford out with a leg injury, the Bearcats amassed 506 total yards. Ridder had a season-high 31 completions — including one to himself off a deflection — in 39 attempts for a season-high 304 yards and two touchdowns to raise his career total to 79 touchdown tosses.

The Bulls managed to stay with the Bearcats through a first quarter that featured a weird sequence of turnovers on three consecutive series.

An exchange of fumbles was followed by a 61-yard interception return by Christian Williams that put the Bulls in business at Cincinnati’s 2-yard line. Mangham punched it in to put the hosts up 7-0.

Cincinnati countered with Montgomery’s 12-yard touchdown run and added scores on Ridder’s 13-yard run and a 1-yard shovel pass to Tre Tucker before Alex Bales closed out the half with a 27-yard field goal to put the Bearcats up 24-7 at the halftime break.

After managing only 39 yards in total offense in the first half, the Bulls accumulated 307 yards after intermission. But it was not enough to upend Ridder and the Bearcats.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the first half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Cincinnati staying focused on South Florida

Despite recent close calls, Cincinnati moved up a spot in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings and will occupy the No. 5 position when they take on struggling South Florida in an American Athletic Conference game Friday night in Tampa.

The Bearcats (9-0, 5-0 AAC) enter the game more than three-touchdown favorites over the Bulls (2-7, 1-4).

Last week’s win over Tulsa was the second by one score for the Bearcats in their last three games after their 56-21 rout of UCF on Oct. 16. The Bearcats escaped Navy 27-20 the next week, cruised past Tulane 31-12 on the strength of a 10-point fourth quarter, then kept Tulsa out of the end zone eight times inside the 12-yard line in the final two minutes for a 28-20 win.

Tulsa had three chances from Cincy’s 1-yard line in the final minute and couldn’t score, fumbling into the end zone on the final play.

“I think we learned some more from it,” Bearcats coach Luke Fickell said at his weekly media session. “I think our guys recognized the way everybody plays them and the way they’ve got to continue to push and fight and do whatever it’s going to take. We’ve got to keep fighting.”

Quarterback Desmond Ridder dismissed the notion that the CFP rankings and all the talk that goes with that is putting extra pressure on the Bearcats.

“I would say it’s fun,” Ridder said. “It’s fun to see our name as the University of Cincinnati and our program up there. I wouldn’t say it has added pressure or anything.

“Like coach Fickell says, all we care about is winning the conference championship. Once we do that, everything is going to take care of itself, so we’re just taking it game by game. It is a blessing, an opportunity to be involved and be part of that and bring the city and community along with us.”

Ridder is concerned with more direct things, such as the injury to leading rusher Jerome Ford (888 yards). Ford left last week’s game against Tulsa with an apparent leg injury, and his status for this week is unknown.

“I’m hoping he plays as much as everyone else does because he’s a great running back,” Ridder said.

Ridder is Cincinnati’s second-leading rusher with 214 yards. Ryan Montgomery has rushed for 174 yards.

USF has lost its last two games since ending a long conference losing streak with a 34-14 win over Temple on Oct. 23, but second-year coach Jeff Scott said he saw some good things in the 54-42 loss to Houston last week.

“I’m disappointed by the ending of the game and not being able to pull off what would have been a nice upset there,” he said, “but really encouraged by some of the things I see about this team.”

Scott is well-aware of the task his Bulls face in hosting the Bearcats.

“In order to pull off an upset like that,” he said, “you’ve got to be at your best for four quarters.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Provo, Utah, USA; South Florida Bulls running back Jaren Mangham (0) reacts to the Brigham Young Cougars fans after his touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Brigham Young Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Against South Florida, ECU to focus on running with the Bulls

When South Florida squares off with American Athletic Conference foe East Carolina on Thursday, the Bulls will be cruising on a wave of enthusiasm they have not felt recently: The joy from a significant win.

USF (2-5, 1-2) earned its first triumph over an FBS school in 728 days Saturday at home when it mauled Temple 34-14 by rushing for a school-record 421 yards.

That single-game rushing high featured banner showings from a backfield of Jaren Mangham, Kelley Joiner and Brian Battie, after starting quarterback Timmy McClain was injured late in the first half.

Mangham rushed 26 times for 152 yards and two scores, Joiner 14 times for 126 yards and a touchdown and Battie 12 times for 77 yards.

The Bulls toted it 73 times at a 5.8 yards-per-carry clip. They held possession for 44:35 — also a team record.

“This would have been a nice win at any point in the season,” said second-year coach Jeff Scott, whose previous two victories were against The Citadel and Florida A&M of the FCS. “But coming off that game last week, that was the toughest week I had in a long, long time in my career.”

In that one against Tulsa, the Bulls squandered an 11-point fourth-quarter lead and lost 32-31 on a last-minute TD.

Meanwhile, the Pirates (3-4, 1-2) rallied for two late scores in regulation but eventually dropped a 31-24 decision in overtime to Houston.

The weather-interrupted contest at Houston was set to begin at 3 p.m. local time and finished close to midnight after two delays.

ECU’s Holton Ahlers — fourth in the AAC with 1,763 passing yards — was 23-of-37 for 278 yards and two TDs.

The Pirates outgained the Cougars 360-256 and held them scoreless in the second half.

“I think it continues to show the growth of the program,” said ECU coach Mike Houston of his defense. “I don’t know what we were, 110th or 112th or something like that when I got here. They improve every single week. … I think anybody can see the growth. It’s just frustrating to not get the wins.”

At 49th nationally, USF’s rushing attack grinds out 183.1 yards per game, while the Pirates’ run defense surrenders 143.7 yards and ranks 57th.

The Pirates have won just two of the 11 meetings between the schools but were victorious 44-24 last season in Tampa.

–Field Level Media