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Chopped: USF 28, Rutgers 27

This probably wasn't the convincing, redemptive win USF fans would have liked to get over their nemesis. It was entertaining, but also ugly and tougher than it needed to be. Still, I guess we shouldn't complain about it since the Bulls had been outscored by 64 points in their last two meetings with Rutgers, and lost four straight to the Scarlet Knights overall. A win's a win, and this one puts USF in pretty good shape to go bowling for the sixth straight year.

-- If USF had lost this game, I would have titled this post "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" on account of the mental errors they made to keep Rutgers in the game. I don't even have to explain why the Mason Robinson punt return touchdown was such a disaster, with five guys coming at him unblocked and every single one of them assuming Robinson had called for a fair catch. The Scarlet Knights' touchdown drive to start the second half was sustained by two ridiculous p ersonal foul penalties -- one on Patrick Hampton for a horse collar tackle on Joe Martinek 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and then an unsportsmanlike conduct on Terrell McClain two plays later for getting into it with an offensive lineman after yet another unsuccessful play.

-- Then there was the Mohamed Sanu touchdown pass, a trick play that was so obvious to me that I sniffed it out as soon as I saw the formation. Rutgers showed an ace twins left formation (two tight ends, one running back, two receivers both lined up to the left) with Sanu positioned 3 or 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage, further back than wide receivers would ever set up for a normal play. I knew he was going to get the ball and throw it. Even worse, the Bulls got caught in a safety blitz from that side of the field, so they were screwed even if Sanu hadn't given off such an obvious tell. The coaches should have called a timeout if they noticed it (although to be fair, I had a much better angle of the formation on TV than they did on the sideline). I did get a rueful laugh out of Skip Holtz's reaction when ESPN2 showed the wide-angle replay -- he knew they had been snookered as soon as Sanu got the ball.

-- Not that Rutgers didn't have its own killer mistakes. They had several ill-timed offside and false start penalties, they snapped a ball over Chas Dodd's head that led to a 14-yard loss, and then there was this unbelievable DERP moment that Toro Grande swears that Dodd actually checked down to. (thanks to Bubbaprog for the GIF)

More after the jump.

-- The option package USF put in was a clever wrinkle that I'll cover in more detail in a Film Study. In short, it helped give the Bulls a running game that Rutgers had to account for. It also made them back off on their blitz package, and it set up several big runs by Mo Plancher between the tackles, plus a couple of shovel passes that each went for around 20 yards. Plancher fumbled twice (fortunately the Bulls recovered them both) but other than that he had an excellent game with a career-high 135 yards.

-- At this point I'm more interested in B.J. Daniels' decision-making and how he throws the ball than I am in his raw stats. Tonight he put together a solid game, only making the one misread (his INT, where Rutgers zone blitzed and Justin Francis peeled off to step in front of a slant to Dontavia Bogan) and shaking off a couple of bad throws early in the game. He looked more at ease on plays where he lined up under center, and the touch pass he threw to Andreas Shields to start USF's winning touchdown drive was a throw I don't think he would have made a few weeks ago. That's the kind of progress I'm looking for.

-- When Rutgers wasn't in the Wild Knight, they finished with a grand total of 9 yards rushing. Granted this isn't the same set of players who manhandled USF four straight years at the point of attack, but that is a huge improvement by the Bulls' defense.

-- I'm pretty sure we'll hear more from Jeremy Deering over the next three years. The true freshman receiver took Sanu's spot in the Wild Knight and ended up being their best offensive player. Deering is from Tampa, and his mother passed away last week, making his homecoming especially difficult. He played a very good game.

-- How confident were you in Maikon Bonani hitting that 47-yard field goal right before halftime? To be honest, I didn't even think twice about him trying that kick. It's been a long time since the Bulls had a kicker that I felt this good about. It might go all the way back to Bill Gramatica, the best kicker USF has ever had.

-- I told On the Banks before the game that I would be disappointed if USF couldn't generate a pass rush against Chas Dodd, even with Craig Marshall out. Rutgers did a lot to prevent that by throwing so many screens and quick passes, but in the few times where Dodd had to drop back and set up, the Bulls did get decent pressure on him. The blitz that snuffed out the Scarlet Knights' last realistic threat was perfectly timed. Jacquian Williams came in totally unblocked and earholed Dodd.

-- Sure the Bulls got lucky with fumbles (they had four, and recovered all of them). But I really don't want to hear about luck... they were due to have some bounces go their way against this team.


Let's finish with what others are saying about the game:

-- Greg Auman's recap says the seniors carried the day. From that story, he tweeted that this is the 5th one-point win in USF history. The other four: 21-20 over SCUMBAGS in 2006, 45-44 over TCU in 2004, 38-37 over East Carolina in 2003, 42-41 over New Hampshire in 1999, and 14-13 over Illinois State in 1999, a game where I confidently predicted in the student section that Redbirds kicker Jake Strader would blow a 24-yard field goal in the final seconds because it was from the left hashmark.

-- The official site has Skip Holtz's postgame press conference, along with a bunch of other video.

-- Joe Henderson says it's never easy with the Bulls, and adds in that Jacob Sims' FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN in the fourth quarter was the first in school history by an offensive lineman.

-- Brian Bennett noticed the new looks the USF offense gave Rutgers that helped them break their losing streak.

-- Finally, a great point from Josh Dentel of ESPN 1040. The Bulls get three more days than Louisville to prepare for their matchup on November 13. The Cardinals are a much more dangerous opponent this year, and USF has never won in Louisville, so that extra time will be useful.