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USF 37, Ball State 7: Looking Good, Billy Ray! Feeling Good, Louis!

Toro dropped this YouTube into the middle of yesterday's GameThread, right about the time USF went ahead by 20 points. I think we ought to run this every time the Bulls win, especially if the rest of the Big East keeps thrashing around like a fish that jumped up on the deck of a rowboat. Obviously it's still quite early and there haven't even been any conference games yet, but our "USF is winning the Big East" declaration has never looked better.

Looking Good Billy Ray (via markthierfelder)

I wasn't as concerned about this game as Ken or some of you were. I didn't think Ball State was a total pushover, but I had a feeling USF would win fairly easily. Then again, I didn't expect a game where it was obvious who the better team was within 10 minutes. When the starters were in the game, the Bulls were in complete control on both sides of the ball.

There's no overriding narrative to the game that I can see other than the whole "win one for Lee Roy" angle. But since I wasn't in Tampa this week and can't add anything that hasn't already been said, I'll set that aside and just look at the game.

-- After some almost Zapruder-level focus on the replays of the opening kickoff, I've finally figured out who forced the fumble that Mark Joyce returned for a touchdown. It wasn't Mike Jeune, although he did get the first contact on returner Paul Dudley. And it definitely wasn't Reshard Cliett, as Doug Graber said on the broadcast*. No, it was Spencer Boyd who came in from the side and leveled Dudley, knocking the ball loose.

-- I think Ball State runs a good offense for their personnel, because Keith Wenning doesn't appear to have a real strong arm, and their receivers don't easily get open down the field. Wenning throws a lot of passes aimed downward, so they don't turn the ball over. It can work if the defense plays off them in coverage, or if you miss tackles. The Bulls tackled very well, bumped the Ball State receivers in the five-yard area to knock off their timing, and they also shut down the running game so that the Cardinals couldn't keep them off balance.

* - Graber didn't really add much to the broadcasts 10 years ago, and even less now. There's a small chance that Penn State running up the score on his Rutgers team in 1995 permanently broke his brain.

-- USF really cranked up the tempo on offense, which I didn't think was a good idea before the game. They executed it so well, though, that it quickly wore down the Ball State defense. It really started paying off in the second and third quarters, when the Bulls got things rolling with the passing game. By the time Skip Holtz called off the dogs, it seemed like the Bulls could run anything in the playbook and gain 10-20 yards. On top of USF's speed advantage, Ball State was mentally and physically fatigued.

-- Well, until they got to the red zone. I was not a fan of the play-calling when USF got inside the 20-yard line. Daniels was tearing up the defense on the short and middle-range passes, with lots of velocity and accuracy. This would have been a good spot for the Bulls to ask B.J. to try and make a pass in a tight spot down by the goal line to see if he could do it. If it works, then it gives him some confidence for down the road. If it doesn't work -- well, you're already in control of the game, it's not going to hurt you very much if he throws an INT or something. Instead, it was lots of running plays and low-risk, low-percentage passes like fade routes. (They're especially low-percentage when the referees allow the cornerbacks to shove the receivers clear out of bounds, like they did in the second quarter.) But USF can't go the whole season bogging down and kicking field goals.

-- Interesting to see Evan Landi and Victor Marc spread out wide so much as hybrid TEs/WRs. Both of them had nice games catching the ball, especially Marc.

-- Darrell Scott ran really well, and he obviously enjoyed watching LeGarrette Blount highlights from Bucs games last year. It didn't sound like Holtz was as impressed with Scott going 2-for-3 on attempts to hurdle defenders as the rest of us were.

-- The backups were a big downer. Holtz was so annoyed with the second-team offense that he brought the entire first string back into the game after Marcus Shaw danced his way into a 22-yard loss on 3rd and 1. After Daniels and the first team buzzed right down the field for another touchdown, the second team came back to finish the game, but they did not move the ball very well. Bobby Eveld's passes were all off target, even the screens and short passes. He was so bad that I think that's why Todd Fitch was still calling passes with a 37-7 lead and the clock winding down. Eveld was that out of sorts. For the night, he was only 3-of-11 for 13 yards and a pretty horrible interception.

The only Ball State touchdown came with the first string offense playing against primarily USF's second-string defense, so their performance wasn't as big of a deal. Still, now we can see why Holtz has talked openly about his depth concerns. As of now, the Bulls need to stay healthy to keep things going at the level they're at right now. There's a lot of season left to coach these guys up, but at the moment are quite a few 2's who aren't exactly ready to contribute.

-- The running game... well, I want to look at that a bit more later on. I'm fascinated by the whole apparatus. Daniels should get credit for managing it so well, in addition to throwing for 359 yards.