N.C. State punched the Bulls square in the mouth.
The Wolfpack opened the game with a 7 play 88-yard drive, capped by a 17-yard run by Bra’Lon Cherry. The Bulls returned the favor when true freshman Ryeshene Bronson hauled in a 75-yard touchdown from Mike White to even the score at 7-7 with 9:10 remaining in the 1st quarter. The pass was not only a career long pass for Mike White, but Bronson’s first career TD as a Bull. The White-Bronson connection was the longest pass for the Bulls since BJ Daniels hit Darrell Scott for 83-yards vs. FAMU in 2011.
Unfortunately that was the last time the Bulls offense broke the plane or had a chance at a lead for the rest of the excruciating afternoon.
The USF defense came up big on 3rd and 9, Nate Godwin assisted by Chris Dunkley knocked the ball out on a would-be return to the redzone for the Wolfpack in the first quarter. Speedster Chris Dunkley then punched in a punt return to the house to only be called back for offensive holding by Tyler Robb, erasing the spectacular play.
Brissett then hit Cherry for a too easy 17-yard TD over the middle, giving the Wolfpack their second lead of the afternoon with 1:31 remaining in the 1st quarter. Cherry broke the plane for third time after Mike White coughed up the ball on the USF 19, making the score 21-7 NC State. To make matters worse for the home crowd-less Bulls, Charlotte native Jaylen Samuels capped a 53-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. The Wolfpack lead the Bulls by three scores with plenty of clock left in the second quarter.
The N.C. State defensive front blew the Bulls offensive line off the ball the entire afternoon, allowing zero time for White to find an open receiver down field. Speaking of open receivers, the Bulls wideouts seemed to never slip away from the Wolfpack secondary. Mike McFarland’s unsportsmanlike conduct flag cost the Bulls a first down and led to another USF three and out. The offensive production for the Bulls, excluding the 75-yard White-Bronson touchdown, was nothing short of abysmal.
N.C. State found the endzone once again when Brissett hit Tony Creecy for the fifth Wolfpack trip to the endzone in the half. N.C. State lead the Bulls 35-7 at the half since the Bulls offense was nothing short of terrible before the break. The Bulls mustered just 94 yards passing and 12 yards rushing to NC State’s 198 yards in the air and 145 yards on the ground. Brissett finished the first half 15 for 23 passing with two touchdowns.
The Wolfpack came out of the half with a 9 play 75-yard drive for another N.C. State touchdown, which felt like salt in the already open and festering wound. After that, even the advanced stat guys stopped watching because garbage time is factored out of things like F/+ anyway.
Yes, the Wolfpack scored 49 points, but their 589 yards of total offense was one short of the school record for yardage conceded. The Bulls gave up 590 to Zach Collaros and Cincinnati in 2010. As bad as it was defensively... at least it wasn't a record!
There was one bright spot for the Bulls down the stretch. Lamar Robbins picked off backup Wolfpack quarterback Garrett Leatham and returned it for a touchdown late in the third quarter. But what if they scored a touchdown, and nobody was there to see it? Did we hallucinate it all? Is this like the finale of Lost? Are we even in the press box writing this now?
Highly-touted true freshman quarterback Quinton Flowers also got in his first game. "I got tired of seeing Mike (White) getting hit over and over," said Willie Taggart after the game, seemingly unhappy with the protection of his offensive line. Flowers first came in for two designed runs in the first quarter, but also played in the second half. He had six carries for 32 yards, and was 1 for 4 passing with two interceptions. He showed a small bit of the speed and athleticism that makes him so intriguing, but is clearly behind the curve as a passer.
Also Marlon Mack, the Bulls savior in Week 1 against Western Carolina, had just 12 carries for 51 yards. That's partially because of the Bulls playing from behind.
The crowd was gone, but never truly arrived. Raymond James was once again empty and listless. The announced attendance of 27,269 was overstated to say the least. Here, some pics from Ray Jay today:
Crowd after kickoff for USF Vs. NC State pic.twitter.com/7ZNjkahHOj— Collin Sherwin (@USFCollin) September 13, 2014
"l believe in this football team. We're still gonna have a helluva season," Taggart said in his postgame press conference. He believes... do you?