TAMPA, SEPT. 3, 2022– The USF football team opened the 2022 USF Football season presented by Tampa General Hospital with a 50-21 loss to BYU at Raymond James Stadium before an enthusiastic crowd of 31,521 that waited out a two hour and thirty-six-minute weather delay that pushed kickoff of the 4 p.m. scheduled game to 6:36 p.m.
Following the weather delay, the first for USF at Raymond James Stadium since the 2019 season-opener against Wisconsin, BYU struck quickly with a 75-yard touchdown run from wide receiver Puka Nacua on the Cougars first play from scrimmage.
BYU built a 28-0 lead in the first quarter after a strong performance from their offense as the Bulls offense struggling to get first downs. Following the big strike on the opening possession, BYU quarterback Jaren Hall drove the Cougars 65 and 82-yards for two touchdowns sandwiched around a 33-yd pick-six by linebacker Max Tooley that gave BYU an early 28-0 lead.
“Obviously, it was a very disappointing performance tonight,” USF Head Coach Jeff Scott said. “I’m really very surprised honestly. Sometimes as a coach you may see some signs during practice where guys aren’t quite locked in or focused. It really was the opposite of that. I felt like we were prepared. Obviously, we weren’t.”
The Cougars pushed the lead to 38-0 when Hall hit Dallin Holker for a 13-yard touchdown and tacked on a 39-yard field goal with 2:11 left in the first half.
USF got the offense going on the last drive of the half as quarterback Gerry Bohanon, a Baylor transfer making his first start at USF, moved the Bulls 84 yards in eight plays, connecting with wide receiver Xavier Weaver for 71 of those yards. Weaver ended the night with his second career 100-yd game, posting 113 yards on five receptions to move into 14th on USF’s career receiving charts with 1,130 yards.
“Congrats to BYU,” said Scott. “That’s a very good team out there. When you play poorly against a very good. team, then the result is similar to what happened tonight. We’ve got a lot of things to fix. It’s our first game. A lot of new parts. We’ve got a lot of stuff to look at and to learn from and we will. I’m confident that our guys will respond the right way. I told them that this game will not define our season and it won’t define our team. How we respond to this will.”
Coming out of halftime trailing 38-7, the Bulls opened the second half with an 89-yard kickoff return by wide receiver Jimmy Horn Jr., the first of his career. BYU drove into USF territory on the next possession, but the Bulls got an an interception by safety Mekhi LaPointe on a Hall pass into the endzone, which he returned to the USF 12.
The spark was short-lived, as USF couldn’t move the ball on three plays and the snap on the punt sailed over punter Andrew Stokes head and through the endzone for a safety and a 40-14 lead. USF tacked on a third quarter touchdown from Brian Battie following a 43-yard drive, but BYU had solidified the win.
Hall finished 25-of-32 for 261 yards and two touchdowns for BYU.
The Bulls’ defense was led by safety Mekhi LaPointe with 10 tackles and his sixth career interception.
Starting his first game with USF, Bohanon went 17-of-30 for 172 yards and an interception and added 28 rushing yards.
• BYU outgained USF 575 to 293 on the night, including 314 yards rushing.
• BYU took a 2-1 lead in the series.
• USF logged its fourth kickoff return for a touchdown in its last 8 games when Jimmy Horn Jr. returned the opening kickoff of the second half 89 yards for a touchdown, the first of his career. All-American Brian Battie posted a nation-leading three kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2021.
• S Mekhi LaPointe led USF with 10 tackles and his sixth career interception.
• Six players made their first career start for USF: On offense: QB Gerry Bohanon Jr and WR Khafre Brown. On defense: DT Rashad Cheney Jr, DE Jatorian Hansford, LB DJ Gordon and CB Aamaris Brown.
• WR Xavier Weaver posted a career-high 113 receiving yards on five catches for his second career 100-yard receiving game.
USF returns to Raymond James Stadium next Saturday night to face Howard University in a 7 p.m. kickoff broadcast on ESPN+.
ABOUT USF FOOTBALL The USF football program first took the field in 1997 and celebrated its 25th season in 2021 while breaking ground on a $22 million Indoor Performance Facility. The Bulls have posted 15 winning seasons, earned 16 All-America selections, including 2021 consensus All-American Brian Battie, and 31 first-team all-conference selections. USF has had 30 players selected in the NFL Draft and has made 10 bowl games appearances (going 6-4 in those games), posting a program-record six straight appearances from 2005-2010 and most recently making four straight bowl appearances from 2015-18. The Bulls posted back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2016 and 2017, logging a program-record 11-2 mark in 2016 while finishing both seasons ranked in the Top 25. USF spent a program-record 20 straight weeks ranked in the Top 25 during the 2016 and 2017 seasons and reached as high as No. 2 in the national rankings during the 2007 season.
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– #GoBulls –
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