NCF Nation: Maikon Bonani
Depends on your perspective, of course. First, let's start with Temple, a team that showed more passion, heart and a will to win throughout its 37-28 victory. The Owls physically dominated what was supposed to be one of the best defensive lines in the Big East, allowing Montel Harris to post his best day in a Temple uniform.
Harris, finally healthy after being slowed with a sore hamstring all season, had 133 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Temple (2-2, 1-0) ran for 216 total yards. Chris Coyer got the pass game going, too, going 16-of-20 for 167 yards and a touchdown. He added 54 yards on the ground.
Special teams came up big at the end, too. Marcus Green gets a game ball for his blocked field goal to help the Owls win. USF, attempting another comeback with less than two minutes to go, threw incomplete on a fourth-and-short. But Nate D. Smith was called for roughing the passer, giving the Bulls new life. They marched into field goal range, and Maikon Bonani lined up for the potential game-winning 45-yard field goal attempt. But Green burst through with the block, and Harris scored from 35 yards out one play later to seal the win.
The only downside to the victory: The Owls may have suffered a potentially devastating injury to running back Matt Brown, whose leg bent awkwardly when getting tackled in the fourth quarter. Brown immediately clutched his knee and did not return to the game. He was having a great day, too, with 137 all-purpose yards.
Now to USF. What has to be particularly frustrating for Bulls fans is the same old storyline keeps repeating itself. Simply put, the Bulls cannot get themselves motivated for these Big East games. They play extremely well in their marquee nonconference matchups. They hung with No. 3 Florida State for most of last week's game.
But against teams that are not as heralded, there is a lack of energy and motivation, and a clear blase attitude.
That played out once again in Philadelphia. For the third time this season, USF had to fight and claw its way back against an opponent it should have beaten. USF has more talent and is much more experienced than Temple, considering the amount of starting seniors on this team. The Bulls were lucky to complete that comeback against Nevada. But it failed against Ball State, and it failed against Temple.
The Bulls (2-4, 0-2) have now lost four straight games and it appears as if they are going to have a tough time winning four of their final six games to make a bowl game. Now questions are being asked about whether coach Skip Holtz deserves to be on the hot seat. With the loss, he is now 15-16 in his third season at USF.
Holtz just received a contract extension, so he has that going for him. But no doubt Holtz is going to have a lot of explaining to do. When you are USF, you simply should not lose games to teams like Ball State and Temple.
The senior completed 17-of-26 passes for 265 yards and had four total touchdowns, but he also threw an interception and fumbled on a sack, which led to 10 Chattanooga points.
It was still more than enough in a 34-13 Bulls win over the Mocs, as USF built an 18-point first-half lead and took it from there. But Daniels will have to be more careful offensively next week when the Bulls travel to Nevada, fresh off an upset of Cal.
Sterling Grffin and Terrence Mitchell were the receivers of choice Saturday, with Griffin catching two passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, and Mitchell adding five catches for 78 yards and a score.
Kicker Maikon Bonani became the school's all-time leading scorer with his extra point following Mitchell's second-quarter score, which put USF up 21-3.
The Bulls' defense was stifling, holding the Mocs to just 151 total yards and recording six sacks on the night.
I tried to give equal weight to all parts. In the end, I took the rankings in several special-teams categories and used an average ranking to help determine these. Special weight was given to game-changing plays as well.
1. Cincinnati. The Bearcats ranked in the top two in four of the five statistical categories I used to evaluate special teams as a whole. The only area lacking was field goals, but I thought overall Tony Miliano had a decent year for a true freshman, even considering his missed kick against West Virginia. Ralph David Abernathy IV emerged as a dynamite kickoff man, and Pat O'Donnell was the best punter in the Big East again. Kickoff coverage was solid as well. Preseason ranking: 5.
2. UConn. Nick Williams averaged just 5.6 yards a return on punts. He was not particularly dynamic on kickoff returns, either, ranking No. 4 in the Big East after going into the season as one of the top returners in the league. UConn was one of two Big East teams without a kickoff return for a touchdown. But still, the Huskies were solid in every other category. Dave Teggart once again was the Big East first-team kicker, and Cole Wagner averaged 41.1 yards a punt. Preseason ranking: 1.
4. Rutgers. Once again, the Scarlet Knights were highly effective at blocking kicks -- a staple under coach Greg Schiano. Jeremy Deering was solid in the kickoff return game as well. But San San Te had the worst field goal percentage in the Big East (64.5 percent), and kickoff coverage ranked No. 7 in the conference. Rutgers only had an opportunity to return 16 punts last season, averaging about 6 yards a return. Preseason ranking: 6.
5. Pitt. The Panthers lost their punter and field goal kicker from a year ago and did perhaps better than expected in special teams overall. Punter Matt Yoklic was second in the league in punts, though Kevin Harper did struggle at times with his field goals. Losing Cameron Saddler really hurt the punt return game as well. Preseason ranking: 8.
6. Syracuse. Ross Krautman led the Big East in field goal percentage (78.9) but he only had 19 attempts on the season, second fewest in the Big East. Punt returns were essentially nonexistent -- with only 12 attempts for an average of 3.1 yards a return. Jeremiah Kobena was a nice addition at kickoff returner, but the Orange still ranked No. 6 in the Big East in that category and kickoff return coverage as well. Preseason ranking: 4.
7. Louisville. Chris Philpott had a disappointing season, ranking No. 7 in the league in field goal percentage (66.7). He and Josh Bleser averaged 37.3 yards a punt. Punt returning ranked No. 7 in the Big East as well, and aside from Adrian Bushell's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, that category was just average for the Cardinals. Preseason ranking: 3.
8. USF. I think the Bulls were the biggest disappointment in this category. Lindsey Lamar, who was the first-team Big East selection at returner last year, had zero this year and ranked No. 9 in the league in kickoff return average. His average was down some six yards from last season. When Terrence Mitchell got hurt and missed the second half of the season, no one was dynamic at punt returner, either. Maikon Bonani ranked No. 3 in field goal percentage but fairly or not is going to be remembered for missing a field goal that would have beaten Rutgers, and eventually gotten the Bulls bowl eligible. Preseason ranking: 2.
The bad: What more can be said for the way Cincinnati played on offense in a 20-3 loss to Rutgers. Everybody knew it was going to be difficult for backup Munchie Legaux to step in for Zach Collaros at quarterback, but did anybody envision it would be as bad as it looked? Cincinnati was held to a season-low 225 yards of offense -- its lowest total since gaining 146 against Rutgers in 2005. Legaux only completed 12 passes with an interception. Not only did he have several passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, his receivers dropped many catchable balls as well. The Bearcats' inability to throw was a huge reason why they could not get anything going on offense. Rutgers was locked in on stopping the run, and worked its game plan perfectly. ... How many heartbreaking losses can one team take? USF dropped yet another game by three points, losing to Miami 6-3 when Jake Wieclaw made a 36-yard field goal as time expired. USF lost in overtime to Rutgers when San San Te made a field goal and Maikon Bonani missed his short attempt at the end of regulation. The Bulls also lost to Cincinnati when the Bearcats rallied to win in the fourth quarter. It was a tough loss to take when you consider how good the defense played all game. USF had six sacks, the second-highest total in school history, and allowed the fewest points all season. In fact, it was the lowest scoring game in school history. But when it came down to crunch time, Miami was able to drive into field-goal range and USF simply could not get a stop when it was needed. Miami converted three third downs on that final drive, which went 15 plays. ... UConn running back Lyle McCombs had a season-low 33 yards rushing but went over 1,000 yards on the season in a loss to Louisville. The Huskies were totally stymied on the ground, a big reason why they only had the ball for 21 minutes against Louisville. What hurt even more -- dropped passes. UConn had nine of them, including two that very well could have been touchdowns. Poor tackling was also a problem, and coach Paul Pasqualoni described his team's overall effort as "puzzling." Now UConn has to win out just to become bowl eligible.
Week 13 schedule
Louisville at USF, 11 a.m., ESPN2
Pitt at West Virginia, 7 p.m., ESPN
Cincinnati at Syracuse, noon, Big East Network
Rutgers at UConn, noon, ESPN2
Who had a role in the comeback? None other than Chas Dodd.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano turned to Dodd in the fourth quarter to relieve an ineffective Gary Nova, who was 11-of-24 for 110 yards and a lost fumble. Dodd was not effective to start, but he came on strong after a huge momentum-shifting play. USF went up 17-3 with 7:38 to play after Demetris Murray capped an 89-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.
But Jeremy Deering returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and Rutgers was right back in the game. USF went three-and-out on the next possession. That is when Dodd worked his comeback magic. He and Mohamed Sanu continually burned the Bulls, including on a critical fourth-and-9 conversion that kept the drive alive. Rutgers tied the score with 1:08 remaining.
Dodd nearly blew the game, though, when he threw an interception late. B.J. Daniels marched USF down the field in no time, and set up for the game-winning 27-yard field goal from Maikon Bonani with 2 seconds left. But he missed it, and the game went into overtime.
Daniels threw an interception on the opening USF drive. San San Te did not miss his game-winning opportunity and nailed a 37-yarder to win to cap the improbable comeback.
USF, which dominated the game, has dropped four straight and is 0-4 in Big East play. The Bulls held Rutgers to minus-7 yards rushing and outgained the Scarlet Knights 381-228. But once again they found a way to lose. A team that started the season with a win over Notre Dame is now in danger of not making a bowl game.
- USF ended the half with a bit of a clock-management blunder that wasted a chance for a third-and-goal. On second-and-goal at the 2, the Bulls snapped the ball with 28 seconds left in the half. B.J. Daniels ran for no gain. But it took a while for him to be extricated from the pile. Then the Bulls appeared to be confused and waited until 3 seconds remained on the clock to call timeout. Maikon Bonani hit the 20-yard field goal, but fans booed the team on the way to the locker room.
- The Bulls had two opportunities from inside the Cincinnati 5 in the first half, but came away with just a field goal. On the other chance, they botched the snap on the field-goal attempt.
- Daniels had yet another fumble, this one early in the game. He has four turnovers in two games.
- Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros has thrown two pretty bad interceptions. The first was in the end zone; the second led to the game-tying field goal, when he inexplicably decided to flip the ball to a sea of green shirts after being chased way, way outside the pocket.
- The Bearcats had a missed field goal of their own on the opening drive of the game, when Tony Miliano went wide left from 33 yards.
So you see the game has not been played well on either side. Collaros is not having the greatest game, and USF is really doing a nice job of slowing down Isaiah Pead, who only has 34 yards rushing with a long of 9. Both defensive fronts are doing an excellent job getting pressure -- that is a big reason why Collaros has struggled. Neither team is running the ball well, either. Cincinnati has held the No. 1 rushing team in the league to 42 total yards on the ground.
USF receiver Deonte Welch has more than 100 yards in the first half, and the Bulls have been able to move the ball at times. They just keep getting in their own way.
And it all started on the opening kickoff, when Mark Joyce recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown 8 seconds into the game. The Bulls piled it on from there, getting three field goals from Maikon Bonani and a solid performance from B.J. Daniels, who has started 24-of-31 for 288 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
If anyone was looking for a reason to nitpick, then there is one: USF has settled for field goals instead of touchdowns on severeal drives when it gets to the red zone. But it's hard to complain about that when you are winning 30-0.
Michael Floyd: The senior hauled in a career-high 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He passed Jeff Samardzija's previous school record of 179 career receptions, finishing the day with 183 for his career. And he moved into second on the school's all-time receiving yards list (2,693), trailing only Golden Tate (2,707).
Cierre Wood: Wood ran for 104 yards on 21 carries, becoming the first Irish back to eclipse the century mark in a game since Armando Allen did against UConn in 2009. He added three catches for 44 yards, including a career-best 31-yarder on the Irish's first play from scrimmage.
Manti Te'o: The defense as a whole deserves plenty of credit for holding USF to just one touchdown in less than ideal circumstances, and it was led by Te'o. The junior linebacker had a team-high nine tackles, including a sack on third-and-9 in the second quarter that forced a 52-yard field goal attempt Maikon Bonani couldn't connect on.
Bonani's earlier miss came after a gutsy fourth-and-1 call from Skip Holtz at the Irish 48 that kept USF's drive alive, though it ended up not mattering. Holtz was faced with a similar situation in the first quarter inside the Notre Dame 1 and with a 10-0 lead but opted for the kick.
The fact he went for it in a worse spot a quarter later seems baffling, especially considering the pros and cons of each situation. Then again, we have already seen one goal line play go the other way.
Speaking of which, the Irish offense has clicked at times between the 20s but has been lost in the red zone. Gray's fumble on third-and-goal in the first quarter preceded a Dayne Crist interception on third-and-goal in the second quarter. The senior quarterback underthrew Riddick in the back of the end zone and was picked off by DeDe Lattimore.
The Irish went three-and-out following the missed field goal and will get another chance to atone for its weak early performance before halftime.
Debate this among yourselves. USF had the ball with three tries at the Notre Dame 5-yard line to punch it in for a score. Darrell Scott ran it twice down to the 1. On third-and-goal from the 1, B.J. Daniels tried to sneak it in but was stuffed -- a play call that already has been debated.
So what would you do on fourth-and-goal from the goal line? If you go for it and make it, you take a huge 17-0 lead on the road against No. 16 Notre Dame. Storm clouds are rolling in, so the field could get soaked if the rains come. It would be a huge confidence and momentum builder.
But coach Skip Holtz went the conservative route and opted for the short field goal from Maikon Bonani. USF is on the road, after all, so he probably figures you take the points whenever you can get them. We'll see whether that decision ends up having any impact on the game.
Notre Dame did come up with a couple of key stops at its own goal line after consecutive facemask penalties on Harrison Smith put the Bulls in position to make it a three-possession game early. A 17-yard field goal from Maikon Bonani has instead made it 13-0 in the first quarter.
The Irish's offense was clicking on all cylinders on its opening drive before a costly fumble by running back Jonas Gray on a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line resulted in a 96-yard score for South Florida, with Kayvon Webster doing the leg work on the return for the Bulls.
Maikon Bonani matched a career-long by connecting on a 49-yard field goal attempt on USF's first offensive possession.
Cierre Wood has 8 carries for 42 yards and got things started with a 31-yard reception on the first play of the game, but it all went for naught following the turnover.
Let's see if the Irish offense can take a cue from its 'D' following a big stuff.
Cincinnati: Tight end Travis Kelce hurt his shoulder in the morning practice but the injury isn't believe to be serious. The team moves Friday to the Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center in West Harrison, Ind., to practice for two weeks.
Connecticut: Yet another receiver has decided to transfer. Malik Generett became the third receiver in a week to leave UConn for an FCS school. Generett is headed to Tennessee-Martin.
Louisville: The Cardinals held their media day on Wednesday, and coach Charlie Strong reiterated that Will Stein would be the starter at quarterback if the season started today. He also emphasized that this team's strength would be its defense, particularly in the front seven and at safety.
Pitt: Coach Todd Graham chastised his players for cursing during practice Wednesday. He also has banned them from using Twitter during camp. As for his players, he is looking at Ryan Turnley and Chris Jacobson at center. "The first two days we’re trying to make sure we have people in the right position, and at the end of the day we will go back and make evaluations," he said.
Rutgers: Injuries have started to mount for the Scarlet Knights. Defensive end Manny Abreu was carted off the field after he got "dinged." "He didn't look too good,'' coach Greg Schiano said. "I hope it's not too bad.'' Meanwhile, redshirt freshman safety Rashad Knight could be out for the season with a broken foot. Starting cornerback Logan Ryan also injured his leg. Running backs Jawan Jamison (hamstring) and Jeremy Deering (ill) have also missed practice time, along with starting left guard Desmond Wynn.
Syracuse: Three of the team's four centers were hampered with injuries during Wednesday's practice. Only starter Macky MacPherson is healthy. Freshman Jesse Wolf-Gould also took a few snaps to help out. Seniors Ian Allport and Nick Lepak and freshman Rob Trudo were all out. Offensive line coach Greg Adkins also has returned to the team after a non-threatening medical condition kept him out of camp the first five days.
USF: The kicking jobs remain open at USF. Coach Skip Holtz said after practice that nobody is kicking with any consistency so far in camp. “I can’t look you in the eye and tell you that anybody has nailed down any of the special-teams responsibilities,” he said.
Holtz said kicker Maikon Bonani has had a few up and down days. Redshirt freshman Marvin Kloss and true freshman walk-on Mattias Ciabatti are in the mix. At punter, Justin Brockhaus-Kann and Chris Veron are competing, along with Mattias Ciabatti.
West Virginia: Coach Dana Holgorsen is not too pleased with his receivers. He says there is still too much inconsistency there. "I don’t know how those guys can get worse from spring, but it looks to me like some of them have," Holgorsen said. The one player who stood out Wednesday was Ryan Nehlen, whose grandfather, great West Virginia coach Don Nehlen, was in attendance at practice.
2. USF. The Bulls also have an excellent kicker-returner duo in Maikon Bonani and Lindsey Lamar. Bonani made 17 of 21 kicks last year, while Lamar was the first-team All-Big East selection, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaging 26 yards per return. Add in punt returner Terrence Mitchell and this is one of the best units in the league.
3. Louisville. The Cardinals have one of the best in the league in Chris Philpott, who punts and kicks. Josh Bleser is solid in splitting the punting duties with Philpott. Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright are back as kickoff returners -- both averaged 30-plus yards per return last season. Wright's kick return helped the Cardinals win the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl last year. Doug Beaumont is gone as punt returner, but he is the only loss. This unit has a chance to be No. 1 at year's end.
4. Syracuse. The Orange have one of the best kickers in the league in Ross Krautman, who missed just one of his 19 field goal attempts last season. They do lose their top punt returner in Mike Holmes, along with punter Rob Long so there are questions at some of the most important spots on special teams. But Krautman, and the return of Dorian Graham and Prince-Tyson Gulley returning kicks puts this unit just ahead of the Bearcats.
5. Cincinnati. This is a mixed bag for the Bearcats. They have the best punter in the league in Pat O'Donnell, who also happens to be a physical freak in the weight room. They should be decent in the return game with the return of D.J. Woods, who will compete with Anthony McClung, Shaq Washington and Kenbrell Thompkins to return kicks and punts. Darrin Williams is in the mix for kickoff returner, too. But kicker is a huge question mark. Jacob Rogers was solid last season. Now there is uncertainty in the competition between Tony Miliano and Danny Milligan. Coach Butch Jones says he won't name a starter until game week.
6. Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights also have question marks here. Kicker San San Te returns, but he needs to be better from longer distances (2-of-7 from 40-plus yards). Punter Teddy Dellaganna is gone and so is kickoff returner Joe Lefeged. True freshman Anthony DiPaula enrolled early and takes over at punter. Mason Robinson is back at punt returner, and Jeremy Deering and Mark Harrison make a good combo returning kicks.
7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers need more consistency from kicker Tyler Bitancurt, who missed his final four kicks of last season. He made just 10 of 17 attempts and looked shaky in the spring. West Virginia has a new holder and a new punter in Corey Smith, and hopes for improvement in the return game.
8. Pittsburgh. The Panthers have to replace both kicking specialists, including Big East first-team punter Dan Hutchins. At punter, you have walk-ons Matt Yoklic and Drake Greer, neither of whom has punted in a collegiate game. Kevin Harper takes over as kicker and had a good spring game. The Panthers also replace their long-snapper, so there will be a period of adjustment for this unit when the season starts. Cameron Saddler is a bright spot at returner.
Another monkey is off the program's back, as the Bulls won for the first time ever in Louisville, snatching a 24-21 overtime victory. The Cardinals gambled on 4th-and-one in the first overtime possession, but the USF defense stuffed the quarterback-sneak attempt. Then Maikon Bonani, who missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt at the end of regulation, drilled the game-winning 37-yarder.
That's three straight wins for USF, which is now bowl eligible. The Bulls host Pitt next week and control their own destiny; if they win out, they're going to a BCS game.
What a job in his first year by Skip Holtz to get this team to this point, especially after a very shaky start to the year. He is now very much in the discussion for coach of the year honors in the Big East.
Louisville will look back on this one and regret two second-half interceptions deep in Bulls territory, plus Charlie Strong's gamble in overtime. The Cardinals now have three losses in conference play, making their league title chances extremely difficult.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
South Florida kicker Maikon Bonani, who suffered a broken vertebrae after falling about 35 feet from an amusement park ride last month, visited Bulls practice for the first time today. Bonani, who was wearing a brace around his torso, spoke with reporters afterward, and you can watch the video here.
"I missed it," he said. "Laying in bed wasn't fun."
Bonani recounted his harrowing accident on July 19 at Busch Gardens. He worked there as a ride attendant and grabbed onto an unlocked gondola as it was taking off.
"It was more instinct than anything," he said. "People can look at it both ways, whether it was my fault or a failure. At the time, no one would know what to do in that situation."
Bonani knew the ride took 2 1/2 minutes before it reached another station, so he decided to wait until the gondola passed a rocky area and went over a patch of grass.
"The thing was just going to get higher," he said. "If I took the chance, I might have slipped. My hand could have slipped and I could have fallen from higher, onto concrete and on top of people."
He said he thought he'd be able to walk away from the fall. He braced for impact by landing feet-first and said the pain after that "was just broken-bone pain."
"I laid there and made sure I could move my fingers and toes and all that," he said.
Bonani will have to wear the brace for three months, which means he would not be able to kick until late October or early November at the earliest. His plan is to redshirt this year unless the Bulls really need him late in the year.
He said he talks to senior kicker Delbert Alvarado, his likely replacement, almost daily. And he intends to be around practices and all of the home games this season.
"I'm going to be a great support to the guys," he said.