South Florida finally got past Rutgers after four straight losses to the Scarlet Knights.
The Bulls scored a touchdown with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter and then held on for a 28-27 win in Tampa. That was more points than I expected from two offenses that have struggled much of the season, but special teams helped out. Rutgers scored on a punt return, while the Bulls benefited from a safety and a touchdown set up by a long punt return.
The Scarlet Knights had owned South Florida in part because the Bulls had pretty much stuck to the same game plan the past few years. The new staff under Skip Holtz added a lot of wrinkles, including multiple formations on offense designed to help the running game. Tailback Mo Plancher had his best game of the year, running for 135 yards on 21 carries. He did fumble twice, but both were recovered by teammates -- including the game-winning touchdown that offensive lineman Jacob Sims pounced on.
B.J. Daniels continued his resurgence, throwing for 149 yards and two touchdowns. He did have one interception but played a lot better than he had earlier in the season.
Rutgers looked better on offense but couldn't come up with big plays in the fourth quarter when needed. Chas Dodd completed 19 of 22 passes but only had 139 yards as most of his throws were safe and short. The offensive line got dominated by South Florida's defense in the crucial fourth quarter. The Scarlet Knights finished with just 238 total yards, and they weren't able to pounce on several fumbles that seemed to bounce right into South Florida players' arms.
This was a big game for both teams' bowl hopes. South Florida improved to 5-3 and 2-2 in the Big East and now is in pretty good shape for making the postseason. The Bulls are technically still alive in the conference race, too, as they still get to play Pittsburgh.
Rutgers is basically out of the Big East race as it fell to 4-4, 1-2. The Scarlet Knights would need to win out and have Pitt to lose three times to have a real chance at the league title. A more realistic goal now is just to get to a bowl again. This team has been through a lot with the Eric LeGrand situation, and it would be nice to see a good finish for these players.