With the bitter taste of their 46-30 loss at Temple still resonating, an urgent South Florida team responded well on Friday, jumping all over #22 Navy and cruising to a 52-45 victory in a game that was well decided by halftime.
The Bulls had the game effectively out of reach by the end of the first quarter. The Gulf Coast offense jumped out to 28-0 lead within the first twelve minutes.
On the other side of the football, the much maligned Raymond Woodie coached defense did their jobs in neutralizing the Will Worth-led triple option and getting the ball back into the hands of Quinton Flowers and company to score.
Let’s jump right into breaking down what went right for USF in notching their seventh win of the season.
“Bearing” Down on Navy
Let’s first take a look at Navy’s first three drives with the number of plays, number of yards, time of possession, and how they ended:
Drive 1: 6 plays, 26 yards, 3:32, turnover on downs
Drive 2: 4 plays, 22 yards, 2:29, punt
Drive 3: 3 plays, 1 yard, 58 seconds, punt
By the time the Midshipmen got the ball back for their next drive, they were down 28-0 and facing an uphill battle. Mission accomplished for the Bullsharks (if we’re still calling them that).
After watching tape of the Navy-Tulane game, the defense switched from the 4-2-5 to a 46 or “Bear” scheme by loading the box with five defensive lineman and three linebackers to account for the rushing triad of Worth, Toneo Gulley, and Chris High.
Heading into this game, it was heavily questioned whether or not USF’s abysmal run defense (ranked 111th in rush defense S&P+) could contain a prolific attack like Navy’s. They answered the call, setting the tone on the first series when Nigel Harris keyed in on Will Worth for a two yard loss on fourth down.
Preparing for Ken Niumatalolo’s offense is as unique a challenge as any defensive staff can face. You have to account for the frustrating triple option scheme, the fundamentally sound nature of the Navy offense, and their ability to control large chunks of the clock (Navy held onto the football for nearly 40 minutes in last year’s game vs. USF). For the USF defense, knowing what the Middies’ offense is capable of when they have the ball and time to work with, the primary objective was to get off the field and get the ball into the hands of their offense as quickly as possibly, which is exactly what they did.
(Also, 1,000th reminder to ignore the second half garbage time touchdowns.)
Gulf Coast Explodes...what’s new?
Kind of like what we just did with Navy, let’s look at the results of USF’s first six drives in the first half:
Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown.
I think it’s safe to say that you’re not going to lose a whole lot of games when you’re finding the end zone on your first six drives and have 42 points by the half (unless you’re Texas Tech). The Gulf Coast’s ability to score quickly early and often is exactly why it was imperative for Woodie’s group to get off the field in the first quarter. Let’s look at some notable stats, as this unit is seemingly trying to one-up itself every week:
- 8.5 yards per play, including 9.4 yards per rush
- School-record 412 rushing yards including a record 279 in one half
- Quinton Flowers, Marlon Mack, and D’Ernest Johnson each with over 100 yards rushing. First time three USF players have rushed for over 100+ yards in a single game.
- Four touchdown drives took less than two minutes.
- Nine different players caught a pass.
We can repost this here every week. So much speed. So many weapons to choose from.
The Bulls responded to the Temple loss the way they should have by getting stops on defense early, scoring quickly and efficiently offensively, and putting down Navy fairly early.
The Bulls now get a much needed bye week before heading to Memphis, where hopefully they can heal up and continue working on improving their run defense.
Oh, and their AAC Championship game fate now lies in the hands of Uconn this week. Wonderful.