USF was able to overcome a barrage of turnovers and overall sloppy play in the second and third quarters to pull away from Uconn 42-17 Saturday night.
Despite the usual shenanigans, shaky play and weird weather that comes with the dySFunCTion rivalry, the Bulls still managed to rack up 529 yards of offense, extending their streaks of games with at least 35 points and 200 rushing yards. Throw in the Bull Sharks harassing Husky quarterback Bryant Shirreffs all night and you get a victory that clinched bowl eligibility for the second year in a row.
Let’s look at some standout stats in the box score.
Turnover Margin Not An Issue
For the most part USF has been very careful handling the football and not losing the turnover battle. This fact makes Saturday’s sloppy performance a head scratcher. The Bulls finished -4 in turnover margin with two picks and two fumbles.
Two of USF’s turnovers led directly to points in the third quarter and cost the Bulls their halftime lead. The Huskies were able to turn an early interception and fumble into touchdowns to take a 17-13 lead. The Bulls had only given up thirteen points off turnovers all season long, yet they managed to spot fourteen to UConn in the span of two and a half minutes.
Losing the turnover battle by this margin generally doesn’t equate to winning games, so it’s a testament to the abilities of this Quinton Flowers-led quick strike offense to be able to flip the switch late and still win by a comfortable margin. Let’s just hope these hope these turnovers were an anomaly and not the start of a trend.
I Sacked the Shirreffs
As Collin alluded to in his postgame Periscope, UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs will probably spend a lot of time in an ice bath over the next few days.
Using a series of blitzes, the Bull Sharks harassed the junior passer into five sacks, four of which were made by Auggie Sanchez and Jaymon Thomas. The Bulls were consistently in the UConn backfield, racking up nine tackles for loss.
Coming off a season where the USF defense was top 15 in TFLs, the Bulls’ rush defense has been a consistent cause for concern so far. While this year’s squad still has a long way to go, consistently hammering the opposing Huskies backfield is a good start.
3rd Down Efficiency
The difference between USF’s third-down conversion rate in the first and second half indicated how much better the Gulf Coast Offense performed after halftime.
In comparison to previous weeks, the Bulls offense was plodding and inconsistent in the first half, only converting two of eight third down attempts. They were five of nine in the second half (with two fourth down conversions thrown in as well), making it easier to move the ball and maintain their offensive pace.
The Bulls have converted roughly 44% of their third downs this season. The closer they get to converting 50% of the time, the more this offense will continue to roll.
For three quarters, it was a typical South Florida-UConn game filled with sloppy play, turnovers, and punts. Once the Bulls’ offense woke up in the second half, they quickly outpaced the Huskies and turned a four-point deficit into a 22-point lead in what seemed like no time.
We’ve mentioned before that this a broken team with obvious flaws that could be detrimental down the stretch. But as this game showed, they obviously have the talent to pull out of a lull and turn the jets on when need be.
Knocking on the door of the top 25, the Bulls will turn their attention to a Friday night showdown with Temple for an opportunity to further distance themselves from the rest of the AAC East.