USF's BCS hopes go south with narrow loss to UConn

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- South Florida's Andre Hall wasn't about to make excuses.

The leading rusher in the Big East was stopped cold Saturday night in a 15-10 loss to the Huskies, and with the game went the Bulls' chance to play for the conference title and a BCS bid.

The team from Tampa ran into a dominant UConn defense and 33-degree weather, the coldest the Bulls have ever played in.

"UConn was a tough challenge for us. It wasn't the weather," Hall said. "With the modern technology and equipment that can be used, I don't think the weather affected any of our guys. I'm not going to make any excuses for that being a reason why we lost."

Connecticut's Lou Allen rushed for a career-high 101 yards and a touchdown, Darius Butler returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score and the Huskies' defense did the rest. UConn (5-5, 2-4 Big East) scored all its points in the first half and then held the Bulls' vaunted rushing attack to 83 yards.

The Bulls (6-4, 4-2 Big East) were averaging 229.8 yards rushing a game, the second best in the league, and needed a win Saturday to force a title game next week with West Virginia (9-1, 6-0) in Tampa. Now the Mountaineers will play in the Bowl Championship Series for the first time, no matter the outcome of next week's game.

Even with a potential huge game looming, the Bulls weren't tempted to peek past the Huskies, Hall said.

"No way. We knew it was going to be trouble. [UConn] plays hard," Hall said. "There was no chance we were going to look past them."

UConn (5-5, 2-4) snapped its four-game losing streak and kept its hopes alive for a winning record and bowl bid. The Huskies close out the season next week against Louisville.

"This win tonight tells you something about the character of those young men," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "When those kids went out there and hung together it was something special. We scored on offense, defense and special teams. Ultimately, we won as a team."

The Huskies held Hall to 93 yards, forcing the Bulls to find other options. Instead, the Bulls fumbled the ball away twice, quarterback Pat Julmiste was picked off three times and an apparent 75-yard TD reception to Jackie Chambers was nullified by a penalty.

Connecticut scored on their third play from scrimmage when Allen broke free up the middle for a 60-yard score. It was the longest run of the season for the Huskies.

UConn's defense, which held South Florida to just 50 yards rushing in the first half, set up the next score.

James Hargrave sacked Julmiste for a 13-yard loss, pushing the Bulls back to their own 5. Julmiste fielded a high snap on the next play and came down in the end zone for a safety and 9-0 lead.

The Huskies held Hall to 61 yards in the first half. Most of that came on a 36-yard rush that helped set up the Bulls' only touchdown. Julmiste capped an 11-play drive with a 31-yard TD pass to S.J. Green and UConn's lead was cut to 9-7.

UConn answered right back. Butler returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown and the Huskies held on for a 15-7 lead at the half.

South Florida threatened midway through the fourth quarter when Amarri Jackson returned a punt 37 yards to the UConn 9. But after a sack, a false start and a batted-down pass, the Bulls had a fourth-and-7 on the 6 and opted to go for it instead of kick a field goal. The Huskies sniffed out a reverse and tackled Courtney Denson for a 14-yard loss.

"I thought about the field goal and the reason why I didn't do it was because I wanted two opportunities to win the ballgame and not one," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "I really felt like if we didn't make it -- which we didn't -- that our defense was playing
really well and that we'd give our offense good field position."

The Huskies had to punt on their next possession and the Bulls took over on the UConn 44 with under three minutes to play. UConn killed the drive on the very next play when Tyvon Branch intercepted Julmiste in the end zone.

Julmiste finished 10-for-26 for 168 yards.

UConn played most of the second half with a wounded quarterback. Matt Bonislawski was making his second straight start after missing three games with a broken collarbone but reinjured it early in the third quarter. He was 8-for-26 for 81 yards and said the pain nearly made him pass out at times.

"I was not able to pick my left arm up enough to make throws to the sideline. It feels worse than before," Bonislawski said. "It was hurting so bad I was starting to get dizzy."