TAMPA, Fla. (AP) From national championship contention to last place in the Big East.
No. 20 South Florida's rapid plunge continued Saturday with the Bulls' third straight loss, 38-33 to conference rival Cincinnati.
Antwuan Giddens scored on a 63-yard reception and recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a second touchdown, helping the Bearcats (7-2, 2-2) stop a two-game losing streak that knocked them out of the Top 25.
Ben Mauk tossed three TD passes and the Cincinnati defense forced eight turnovers, including four interceptions and a fumble by Matt Grothe, who threw for 375 yards but only one touchdown for USF (6-3, 1-3).
Mike Mickens returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown, and Mauk also threw TD passes of 16 yards to Dominick Goodman and 4 yards to Earnest Jackson for Cincinnati, which led 38-20 at the half.
USF climbed to No. 2 three weeks ago, but consecutive losses to Rutgers, Connecticut and now Cincinnati threaten to drop the Bulls out of the Top 25 altogether.
Grothe's 8-yard TD pass to Jessie Hester, Jr. trimmed Cincinnati's lead to 38-33, but USF's two-point conversion attempt failed and Jackson returned the ensuing onside kick to the Bulls' 25.
But Cincinnati struggled to put the game out of reach the entire second half, and the final two minutes was no exception. The Bearcats turned ball over on downs at their 39, giving Grothe a chance to pull out a dramatic victory.
The USF quarterback threw 18 yards to Marcus Edwards, then connected with Hester for a 24-yard gain to the Cincinnati 18 with eight seconds remaining. He took shots at the end zone on the next two plays, but both fell incomplete - the last with no time left on the clock.