Now that I've had a day to think about the game some more, instead of having some kind of seizure in words and hitting the Publish button, here are some thought's about USF's 24-12 win over Western Kentucky, sorted into Good, Bad, and Ugly categories.
-- The running game. You would expect to have a pretty nice rushing yardage total if you ran it 44 times, but they also averaged 5 yards a carry. And I liked the way they ran the ball. It was mostly downhill, following blockers to get extra yards, and it didn't involve B.J. Daniels running all over the field.
Side note: I'm predicting Demetris Murray will be the starting running back before too much longer. He runs hard and decisively. Even with Dontae Aycock and Darrell Scott coming in, I bet Murray forces his way onto the field next year as well.
-- Bobby Rainey was contained and borderline stopped. USF doubled their tackle for loss total for the season with six, most of them against Rainey. They stretched out a lot of plays and tackled well, and kept their running lanes to keep him from breaking a big one (his longest run of the game was 14 yards). Rainey had 21 carries for only 64 yards when he came in averaging almost 150 a game. The run defense was the real highlight of the game.
-- The special teams (other than placekicking). Justin Brockhaus-Kann had a big night punting the ball, and how did you like that punt downed inside the 1? The coverage teams were good, and Terrence Mitchell helped flip the game with his two big punt returns, including a 67-yarder right up the middle of the field that led to USF's third touchdown and a 21-0 lead. It was the longest punt return for USF since 2008, when Theo Wilson took one back the same distance for a touchdown.
-- Mo Plancher scored the first touchdown (great effort by him to get into the end zone) and I was busy typing away when I heard the pirate ship cannons going off. I thought someone just screwed up and set them off. But later on @USFFootball admitted on Twitter they got the green light to start using them when the Bulls score. That was just cool, and completely unexpected -- according to Ken from his spot in Section 125, no one had any idea they were going to do it. I bet it scared the hell out of the students right in front of the ship when they fired off. Nice job, athletics.
The bad and the ugly after the jump.
-- USF did not want to throw the ball. I get that your top three receivers are out and your offensive line is a strength. But seriously, when are you going to get a better chance to get your inexperienced receivers some action in a live game than against Western Kentucky? Do you want to try and break these guys in during conference play? What if Sterling Griffin and A.J. Love are out longer than you think they will be? I don't understand why you wouldn't throw the ball more than 11 times, and not throw any passes further than about 15 yards downfield.
Then again, the longest pass attempt of the game (a wheel route to Mo Plancher right before halftime) was one where B.J. Daniels stared him down the entire play, and then led him right to where the free safety was waiting for an interception.
-- The Hilltoppers' first touchdown. I was surprised the USF defense didn't anticipate some kind of pass once Rainey got the ball. It was 4th and goal at the 5 and he had been pretty well bottled up for the entire game. Having him run the ball there would have been a ridiculous decision. But Skinny Raymond came way up to stop the run and abandoned Quinterrance Cooper, who Rainey lofted a pass to in the corner of the end zone for the score.
Actually the pass defense in general disappointed me, but I want to look at the game again and break it down in more detail. I was surprised that Kawaun Jakes, who can't possibly be a natural quarterback, was able to throw that well against the USF secondary.
-- The placekicking. Eric Schwartz missed an easy field goal from 29 yards, off the right hash where it's easier for a right-footed kicker to guide the ball in. He also missed a longer field goal and he just slipped an extra point inside the uprights as well. Maikon Bonani was called on for a 32-yarder in the fourth quarter, also from the right hash, and he banked it in off the left upright. Yeesh.
-- No noticeable intensity. I'm getting really tired of seeing this against non-BCS teams. USF comes out flat and not really interested, and the other team is sky-high and running all over the place yelling and screaming and jacked up to the point where they're about to take penalties. Mo Plancher got lit up in the backfield by Kiante Young on USF's second offensive play, and you would have thought the Hilltoppers had just capped off a goal-line stand to win a bowl game with the way they reacted, jumping around and celebrating. I don't want my team so fired up that they come unhinged and start taunting the opposing bench when they're down 24-6 with five minutes left. But I'd like some fire, if that's OK with you guys. When USF finally snuffed out Western Kentucky's last drive, they all just trudged off the field quietly.
-- All the message-board nutcases who already think B.J. Daniels is a bust. My favorite was the guy who wants Bobby Eveld to start on Saturday. What is that going to solve? I'm not happy they didn't throw the ball more, but that was a coaching decision, not a B.J. Daniels decision. The staff decided not to risk it with so many receivers out. I disagree for the reason I already stated, but that's what they decided and we all have to live with it.
Not to mention, have you been watching any other football? Tom Savage looks horrendous because he has no one to throw to. Zach Frazer stunk on his own and he has a pretty bad scheme on his back, but his receivers are a pretty spare lot, too. Brett Favre looked like he aged in dog years against the Saints and Dolphins because he didn't have Sidney Rice or Percy Harvin to throw to. Receivers make quarterbacks look better. If Daniels is still handcuffed like this and making terrible passes when he has all his guys back, then we'll talk. Not before then.