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Notes From The Edge of Sanity: ECU Edition

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USF football is driving me too insane to put together rational thoughts in a long post. So we'll go with bullet points instead.

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Random thoughts about the game:

* Quinton Flowers came in for exactly three plays against ECU (the last play of the first quarter and the first two plays of the second quarter), all of which were handoffs to Marlon Mack. I asked Coach Taggart after the game, and he said they're all run-pass options, but that the pass options were covered so Flowers just handed the ball off. It begins to explain why he's used like this, but it's still odd to see him come in and play the third possession of the game only just as he did against Maryland. Let's hope at some point he gets a chance to spin the rock for real in non-garbage time.

* That punt. Willie Taggart punted on 4th and 10 down 11 points from the ECU 49 with 6:03 left in the game. He said he thought the Bulls could get the ball back... which they did, but with 2:31 left and needing two scores. After missing a 28-yard field goal with 31 seconds left, they didn't score once.

The math of football say coaches punt far too much anyway. If you're on the fence about going for it or punting, you should basically go every time. But waving the white flag, especially when the ECU offense had driven 79 yards or more to the end zone on their last three possessions, was just unconscionable. It's even worse when you consider that even if ECU drives into field goal range but gets stopped short of the end zone, it's still only a two-possession game if they make it.

If you use this win probability calculator (note: it's designed for NFL, I couldn't find one for college), punting actually IMPROVED ECU's chance to win over USF just throwing an incomplete pass on 4th down. That's because it allowed the Pirates more room to operate and the chance get more first downs and chew up more clock. ECU was 98% to win after the punt, but would have only been 97% if USF threw an incomplete pass and ECU took over on downs at their 49-yard line.

Punting was an awful decision here.

* Mike White had to be hurt in the 4th quarter, there's no other way to say it. On 3rd and 10 from the 40 on the Bulls final drive, White got flushed out of the pocket, slid to his right, and bounced a pass eight yards in front of Rodney Adams. Adams was wide open, and anything even near him would have been caught. It wasn't White's only atrocious pass of the final quarter, as the ones he missed were off by zip codes.

He told us he wasn't hurt in the post-game press conference, saying "that's football. I got hit but I'm all good." But it's clear his passing went from serviceable/good to incompetent/atrocious. He's a good kid that's never going to make excuses, but I have to believe on rewatching the film he was hurting.

* We asked Nate Godwin about any adjustments the defense made, and he said "minor adjustments, coverage wise... nothing that we didn't have in the first half."

I watched the entire game, and then the tape, at no point did USF blitz ECU all night. Not once. About 80-90% of the time they sent three down linemen as rushers, and the balance of plays a linebacker went after Carden as well. Also most plays were a two-deep zone, with USF using all four linebackers, or three linebackers and a nickelback to help contain the run gaps.

ECU knew exactly what they were facing. The Bulls blamed their lack of execution and poor tackling, but all schemes work if you have perfect talent executing perfectly. The idea of adjustments is to make it easier to put players in positions to make plays. And in the last two second halves against Wisconsin and ECU, those are difficult to see.

* As bad as all this seems... a bowl game is still quite possible for the Bulls. The rest of the schedule includes an also crappy Tulsa, an SMU team that might be one of the worst you'll ever see, a Houston squad that looks like a crime syndicate is holding the families of their offense hostage in a point shaving scheme, and a Memphis that... well, who knows. And that's before you get to Black Friday where literally anything can happen. There's four wins out there, but can USF get them? That I don't know. I'd feel a lot better about it if football games were only 30 minutes.

* USF has played five games this year against FBS opponents. In four of them they've scored 17 points. The other one they only got 10. Excuse to play some Stevie? Excuse to play some Stevie.

Think we can get the marketing guys to play that if we don't break that magic number against Tulsa or Cinci? I mean if we're not going to score let's at least get some fantastic witch music.