TAMPA — South Florida Bulls quarterback Mike White fell into a sophomore slump Saturday night, a year ahead of schedule.
A true freshman making his second career start, White did not live up to the expectations he created with an outstanding performance in his first start.
Halloween night in Houston, White didn’t lead the Bulls to a victory, but he did show that USF’s offense can move the ball. In that game, he was 26-for-41 for 311 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also had a go-ahead touchdown pass called back in the fourth quarter because of offensive pass interference. His performance inspired the team, which had become accustomed to a lackluster offense.
“When the offense first drove and scored (against Houston,) I was like, ‘OK, we’re going to win this game,’ ” defensive end Ryne Giddins said. “We’ve actually got a team now.”
Some fans called him “Tampa’s Great White Hope.”
Saturday night against Memphis, that hope bottomed out as the Bulls’ offense looked largely incapable in a 23-10 loss to the Tigers.
White (16-for-28) threw for 198 yards as the offense again nearly failed to reach the end zone.
Eighty-four of those yards came on USF’s final two drives when the game was out of reach. He also threw four interceptions — including a meaningless one on the final play of the game — and fumbled in his own end zone, setting up a touchdown drive for the Tigers that made it a two-score game with 4:09 to play.
“Mike didn’t play very well,” coach Willie Taggart said. “I think Mike tried to do too much at times, and that hurt.”
It could have been even worse, as a third-quarter throw into the flat, intended for tight end Sean Price, was easily read by the Tigers’ defense, but the defensive back couldn’t hold on to the ball. Had he caught it, it would have been an easy touchdown.
As a freshman, White is not allowed to speak with the media.
“He was kind of more lax today, I would say,” wide receiver Andre Davis said. “I can’t really say he wasn’t up for the game, because he was. He was excited, but when we have turnovers, that can change a game. He had an off game, but he has the talent to come back.”