Miscues cost WKU in loss to USF

Miscues cost WKU in loss to USF

Zach Greenwell

TAMPA, Fla. — It was a rough night for junior kicker Casey Tinius, but the WKU offense didn’t do him many favors.

Tinius missed all three of his field-goal attempts and his lone extra-point try at South Florida on Saturday night. Head Coach Willie Taggart said, however, that it was a rash of penalties and mental miscues that helped the Bulls (2-1) leave Raymond James Stadium with a 24-12 win.

“We left a lot of points out there today,” Taggart said. “We had plenty of opportunities, and we didn’t take advantage of it. That’s still part of the process of learning how to win.”

WKU (0-4) had five penalties for 39 yards, but sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes said they came at the most inopportune times.

Two of those penalties were false starts on third down to push back Tinius’ field goals, and one was a personal foul on freshman safety Kiante Young after a 39-yard run by South Florida’s Demetri Murray.

“It seems like it always hurts us at the wrong time,” Jakes said. “You’ve just got to be disciplined.”

WKU recorded a season-low for offensive yards allowed (283) and a season-high for offensive yards gained (314), but the Toppers’ best statistical effort thus far was spoiled by missed chances.

WKU opened the game with a 15-play drive that lasted nearly eight minutes, and the Toppers put Tinius in position to attempt a 41-yarder.

But junior offensive lineman Wes Jeffries was tagged for a false start, giving Tinius a 46-yard attempt that he couldn’t complete.

WKU picked up four first downs on that opening drive — a start that sophomore tight end Jack Doyle said was encouraging until the empty result.

“We came out on that first drive, and it was a fun drive,” Doyle said. “We were converting third downs and moving that ball. We’ve just got to finish.”

The first quarter ended scoreless with USF whiffing on its first two drives, punting on the first before kicker Eric Schwartz missed a 26-yard field goal.

South Florida missed another field goal — this one from 46 yards out — early in the second quarter before finally taking a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard touchdown run by Mo Plancher with 5:09 left in the first half.

Murray rushed for one yard on the first play of the drive, but the Bulls vaulted 54 yards downfield after Murray’s long run and the horse-collar call on Young.

“You can’t hold. You can’t jump offsides,” Taggart said. “You’ve got to be disciplined and not do those things and take care of your job. We’ve got to learn to stop doing that in critical situations when we’ve got something going.”

Tinius missed a 50-yard field goal on WKU’s next drive, but Young intercepted South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels to get the Toppers the ball back with 30 seconds remaining in the half.

The interception, which Young returned 32 yards to South Florida’s 12-yard line, was the first of his career and WKU’s first of the season.

WKU stumbled after the big swing in momentum, as Jakes was sacked for an 11-yard loss on second down and the Toppers picked up a second false start.

The miscues moved WKU back to the 28-yard line, and Tinius pushed the 44-yarder wide right as time expired.

“We finally got an interception on defense and had it down there, and then we panicked offensively,” Taggart said. “Those are things we can’t do against a good football team. We’ve got to learn to capitalize on their mistakes.”

South Florida got its running game rolling at the start of the second half, capping a six-minute drive with a two-yard touchdown run by fullback Richard Kelly with 8:33 left in the third.

WKU stalled on its next drive, pushed back by a holding penalty, and Daniels punched the ball in from one yard out with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter to give the Bulls a 21-0 advantage.

The Toppers put together a strong drive to start the fourth quarter but were forced into a fourth-down situation.

They then managed to break the shutout with some trickery, as junior running back Bobby Rainey took a toss from Jakes and then passed to senior receiver Quinterrance Cooper for a five-yard score.

The touchdown pulled WKU within 21-6, but Tinius missed the extra point.

Taggart said the junior kicker was in “good spirits” on the sideline, understanding that he had to deliver.

“He’s got to make them,” Taggart said. “That’s his job. We’re not going to make any excuses. If you say you can make it from there, that’s what we expect.”

The Toppers quickly got the ball back, but Jakes was intercepted by defensive lineman Craig Marshall.

South Florida got a 33-yard field goal out of the turnover, and Jakes later hooked up with Doyle for a 25-yard touchdown pass to end the scoring. WKU failed to get the two-point conversion with another trick pass from Rainey.

Jakes finished the game 19-of-37 passing for 221 yards — a season-high. The 37 passing attempts were also the most of his career.

Doyle had career-highs in both receptions (7) and receiving yards (94).

Rainey, who had rushed for more than 100 yards in each of WKU’s first three games, was held to just 64 yards on 21 carries.

Taggart said the game showed definite signs of improvement despite the costly mistakes, and he said the Toppers reached their goal of progressing through each of their four non-conference games.

WKU has a bye week coming up before beginning Sun Belt play Oct. 9 at Florida International, and Taggart said it’s now time to turn to a second goal — claiming a conference championship.

“It’s coming close to coming together like we want it, and we’ve got to stay the course,” Taggart said. “It’s going to happen for us.”