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USF 14, SMU 13: The Fools Gold Shines Like Diamonds In Our Eyes

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USF had more points than SMU when the game ended, but it certainly didn't feel like a victory. And it covers up some real problems with this team that can't be ignored because they "won."

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

(Musical accompaniment here.)

Let's get the expository details out of the way here. USF trailed the only winless team in FBS, the SMU Mustangs, 13-0 in the fourth quarter. Mike White came off the bench with nine minutes to go and led two touchdown drives. On fourth and goal with the clock running, on the 21st play of the winning drive, he hit Andre Davis with a back-shoulder fade in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown with four seconds left. Marvin Kloss made the extra point and USF won 14-13.

It's interesting that Ryan has been using #ScoreMorePointsThanTeam hashtags all year, and kind of appropriate for this game. USF scored more points than SMU did, but it sure doesn't feel like they won. There have been a lot of unsatisfying victories over these last three seasons, and this one was probably the least satisfying of all. Maybe even a little insulting, because the fact that USF won is going to be used to cover up a lot of persistent problems with this team.

Willie Taggart started doing it in the postgame press conference. I pointed out that USF only scored 14 points against a team that had been allowing almost 50 points a game, and asked if his musical chairs at quarterback might be why they can't get into any kind of rhythm on offense. His answer? "Well, we got 14. It was enough to win."

It's a completely legitimate question. Taggart watched Mike White reel off 31 points in one half against Tulsa. Then he benched White the next week, not really for performance reasons, but because he said he didn't like that White showed his disappointment on the sideline against Cincinnati when there was obviously an equipment problem. (Remember, he wasn't the only person dropping snaps that night.) Taggart went to Steven Bench, who looked awful against Houston, then went to Quinton Flowers, who only threw 15 passes and couldn't have been running the full offense tonight. And then, when Taggart was asked after the game why he switched back to White, he admitted, "I don't think he (Flowers) did a bad job at all. He had throws get away from him. Considering where we were and what we needed to do, it was the best move for the football team."

Why was starting Flowers the best move for the football team, and then three and a half quarters in, even though you said he wasn't playing badly, pulling him for White became the best move? I understand that Taggart wants to foster a culture of competing for starting positions, and it's a good way to make sure everyone plays hard. But no team is ever going to be successful or build any kind of continuity when you keep pulling quarterbacks and putting someone else out there.

We're at the point where the coaching demands better answers, or really just answers. It doesn't make sense that Taggart is 22 games in as head coach, and the offense isn't even close to clicking, and they can't figure out their identity, and he can't settle on a quarterback, and every scoring drive feels labored. It doesn't make sense that USF was called for four chop block penalties and no one corrected the behavior on the sideline. (Only the third call was questionable -- the other ones were all the right calls. You can't have someone come in and hit a guy low when he's already engaged with another player.) It doesn't make sense that they ran the ball on 3rd and goal from the 6-yard line with 30 seconds left in the game and no timeouts. It doesn't make sense that they were willing to go for it on 4th and 3 at the SMU 15 in the first quarter, and then punted on 4th and 2 near midfield in the fourth quarter when they were down 13 points. It doesn't make sense that it was this hard to beat an absolutely horrible SMU team. It doesn't make sense that Taggart is being this stubborn with what is pretty clearly his best quarterback right now. (He wouldn't even commit to White as the starter next week.)

And it doesn't make sense that, at least publicly, Taggart refuses to admit that any of these are problems that are largely his creation. These problems aren't going away just because USF "won" this game. He needs to #DoSomething about them.