On a crisp Philadelphia afternoon when it delivered its most uplifting performance of the season, USF couldn't quite deliver a watershed moment.
But it sure beats the woodshed ones this program recently has endured.
What shaped up as the Bulls' first American Athletic Conference victory in nearly a year was thwarted by untimely turnovers and penalties, as Temple (1-1, 1-1 AAC) rallied from an 11-point second-half hole for a 39-37 victory.
"This one hurts and it's going to hurt," first-year coach Jeff Scott said.
"We found a way to get (ahead) and unfortunately made some critical mistakes that you cannot make in that type of close ball game and expect to win."
Leo Parker made it a two-point game with a 1-yard scoring run - his first carry of the contest - with 1:03 remaining. After a timeout, Noah Johnson, the Bulls' de facto wildcat quarterback, was inserted for the two-point try. He took the snap and rolled left to the short side but was bottled up.
Temple recovered the ensuing onside kick.
"It's a play that we'd had success with in the past," Scott said. "Tried to do it a little different way, and it didn't work. That's on me as a coach."
The Bulls (1-4, 1-3) relinquished the lead for good when quarterback Jordan McCloud fumbled in the backfield and defensive end Arnold Ebiketie scooped the ball and returned it for an easy 11-yard touchdown with 9:52 to play, giving the hosts a 32-31 lead.
Temple then made it an eight-point game with a 10-play touchdown drive, prolonged by a Bulls face mask penalty against defensive tackle Kevin Kegler on third and 6.
USF, which entered the game ranked 14th nationally with only 4.2 penalties per game, were flagged a season-high 11 times for 111 yards.
The lost fumble was the third of the day for McCloud, tarnishing his second consecutive solid passing performance (15-for-26, 182 yards) that included three touchdown passes. It also negated a career afternoon by 5-foot-5 tailback Johnny Ford, whose 206 all-purpose yards included a 13-yard reception in the back of the end zone that gave USF a 28-20 second-half lead.
Chastise Scott all you wish for the play call on the Bulls' potential game-tying two-point conversion (which failed miserably) with 1:03 remaining, but he can hardly be admonished for using a timeout before the attempt. "Basically, that was the game right there at that point," he said. "You've got about an 8% chance to get an onside kick."
Scott was diplomatic when asked about the targeting whistle against Antonio Grier, who was ejected after appearing to lead with his shoulder on a jarring hit on receiver Jadan Blue over the middle. "Those (officials) obviously, they know exactly what they're looking for," he said. "They go back and take time and replay it and they said it was targeting."
For the first time this season, USF's diminutive backfield tandem of Ford and Kelley Joiner Jr. did some damage up the middle, a dimension the Bulls desperately need. The pair combined for 121 yards on 26 carries.
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