Tampa Bay Sports Day

USF Drops Season Opener to No. 19/17 Badgers, 49-0

Photo Courtesy USF Sports Information

TAMPA – Senior transfer Patrick Macon had a monster USF debut with 15 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, a sack and forced fumble but the Bulls’ fell 49-0 to No. 19/17 Wisconsin on Friday night.

“It just shows you, we’ve got a lot of work (to do). We’ve still got a season in front of us and we just got to get ready. The thing I told our team just a few minutes ago is, ‘You don’t point fingers. Now, we’ve got to go back to work,” said USF head coach Charlie Strong.

USF’s season-opening crowd of 46,704 at Raymond James Stadium saw the senior middle linebacker from Memphis, Tenn., post the most tackles in a game for the Bulls since DeDe Lattimore’s 18 stops against Rutgers in 2013.

Macon, who made 10 solo tackles, was one of four upperclassman transfers who started on defense. Junior cornerback KJ Sails recovered Macon’s forced fumble, totaled two tackles and had a 17-yard punt return after becoming eligible this week.

“Macon has practiced well. Ever since Nico (Sawtelle) went down, we knew what type of player we were going to get out of him,” noted Strong. “All those guys we got, even (Darius) Slade played pretty well, I think he had some plays. (Devin) Studstill had some plays and KJ (Sails), KJ picks up the fumble. Those guys have made our team better.”

Studstill started at strong safety and tied for second on the team with five tackles in his first game with the Bulls since transferring from Notre Dame.

Following a lightning delay, Wisconsin Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor’s three touchdown first half helped power the Badgers to a 28-0 lead by the break.

While several dropped passes dashed USF’s chances to get its new offense rolling. Taylor’s 37-yard TD run got Wisconsin on the board first. The Badgers later stripped Bulls quarterback Blake Barnett and returned the fumble 16 yards for a touchdown and 14-0 lead. Barnett finished 13-of-30 for 109 yards and two interceptions on the night.

Taylor scored on runs of 36 and 12 yards to give the Badgers the halftime margin. Macon shined on defense in the first half with nine tackles and a forced fumble recovered by Sails. The Bulls recovered that fumble on their own 43, but failed to move into Wisconsin territory on the ensuing possession.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud made his first USF appearance in relief of Barnett. McCloud completed all three of his pass attempts for 22 yards and rushed for 17 yards on three carries during USF’s final drive that resulted in a missed field goal.

USF travels to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. (TV: ACC Network).The Bulls return to Raymond James Stadium to host South Carolina State on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.

USF GAME NOTES: A total of 46,704 fans attended Friday’s game, which marked the Bulls’ 18th-best home attendance total in program history….Friday was USF’s first home loss in a season opener since 2013…the start of the game was delayed 55 minutes due to lightning….four USF upperclassman transfers started on defense – senior LB Patrick Macon, senior DE Darius Slade, junior CB KJ Sails and senior S Devin Studstill….Wisconsin’s racked up 43 yards total after Heisman Trophy candidate Jonathan Taylor rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.