South Florida’s 10-play, 85-yard drive for a touchdown on its opening possession on Saturday night at Yulman Stadium represented a reversal of form for both teams.
Tulane had not allowed a point through six games on an opponent’s first series, getting three three-and-outs and three turnovers — interceptions against Navy and Florida International and a forced fumble against Oklahoma.
The Bulls had been slow starters all year, outscoring opponents only 43-38 in the first quarter but 214-65 the rest of the way.
The Green Wave struggled tackling on the perimeter early, turning a couple of short gains into first downs before South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers ran untouched for a 21-yard touchdown.
Tulane’s streak of not allowing a point on the opening drive stretched to 10 games, dating to last year’s Oct. 29 homecoming matchup with SMU.
Tulane’s rough start included three injuries.
Quarterback Jonathan Banks left after gaining 10 yards on the game’s second snap and had his right hand taped. He returned after missing four plays in favor of backup Johnathan Brantley and was sacked, forcing a Tulane punt.
Nickelback Jarrod Franklin went down after making a tackle on a successful fourth-down conversion by the Bulls on their initial touchdown drive.
South Florida quarterback Flowers scored on the next play, but Franklin returned for the next series and make a third-down tackle to force a three-and-out.
Strong safety Roderic Teamer appeared to hurt his ankle in the second quarter and did not return for the rest of the half.
After leading rusher Dontrell Hilliard gained 90 yards on 12 carries against Florida International, Tulane coach Willie Fritz lamented him not getting the ball more often.
The Wave did not make the same mistake against South Florida. Hilliard carried 16 times in the first half — a career high — for 49 yards.
He was not on the field for one crucial play, though. On fourth-and-1 from the South Florida 43, power back Darius Bradwell took a handoff and was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. The Bulls scored their second touchdown five plays later.
South Florida coach Charlie Strong had trouble at Texas in part because of a series of blocked kicks his special teams allowed early in his tenure, and the problem followed him to Tampa.
The Bulls had two extra points and a field goal blocked in their first two games, appeared to correct the problem in their next four but had another extra point blocked by Tulane’s Roderic Teamer in the second quarter.
It was the Wave’s first blocked kick of the season, keeping South Florida’s lead at 13-0. Using that momentum, Tulane scored on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Banks to Terren Encalade two plays into its next drive.
A couple of crucial penalties contributed to Tulane’s 20-7 halftime deficit.
Defensive tackle Sean Wilson was called for a personal foul after South Florida converted a fourth down on its first series, moving the ball to the Tulane 21. The Bulls scored on the next play.
Even more costly was a holding call on offensive guard Dominique Briggs when Hilliard scored on a 25-yard touchdown run right after South Florida’s first touchdown. The play featured a knockdown block by Banks that sprang Hilliard to the end zone.
Tulane ended up punting from South Florida’s 32.