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The Film Room: What USF Did Right vs. NIU, And Where They Can Get Better

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We take a look at the tape to see why the Bulls offense continues to click, find some opportunities for them to get even better, and also look at a couple nice plays from the defense.

Towson v South Florida Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images

It is really hard to complain about the USF offense over the last 11 games played. Averaging 40.2 points per game is pretty good, and it’s only increasing through the end of the sample. But as good as they’ve been over their last 11 games played, they’re still leaving plays on the field. And those might be the difference between a conference championship and the St. Pete Bowl.

For purposes of ease, we’ll go through some key plays from Saturday night vs. NIU in time order. It starts with a bad one, but then shows how good the good is. We’ll also throw in a couple defensive plays that worked very well.

NOTE: this is just a sample and isn’t intended in any way to be totally inclusive. These take a long time to do well and we just don’t have the manpower to chart ‘em all how we’d like, so we try and take a representative sample of important plays.

2ND NOTE: This would be way, way better if we could get All-22 film. CC: @USFAthletics & @American_Conf.

14:00 1st Quarter:
3rd & 4
11 personnel

Could Darius Tice have caught this and picked up a first down despite the low throw on the opening drive of the game? Sure. But this ball should have been in his hands, and it wasn’t. It’s a baseline throw for a quarterback.

As good as Quinton has been, this is the hole in his game. Can he clean it up to get the offense to the next level is the question.

9:00 1st Quarter:
3rd & 8
10 personnel


But for all the inaccuracy, look what Quinton does here with his eyes to keep the safety locked in on him juuuuuuust long enough so that Marquez Valdes-Scantling can beat the coverage and find the hole in the zone. You have to respect Quinton as a runner, and he forces defensive backs to keep their eyes in the backfield.

Sometimes for fans it’s frustrating to watch the easy ones get missed, but Quinton makes the “chunk” plays look easy. And that might be more valuable.

7:00 1st Quarter:
2nd & 11
11 personnel

The play of the game as far as I’m concerned, and the one that’ll keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night. Due to this not being All-22 film we can’t see everything, but this looks like it was some Air Raid style 2 verts left, with MVS running a smash-type concept with his slot guy clearing out & Tice as the checkdown.

If that’s the case, Q’s reads here would normally be back-to-front, where the left side verts usually being his first progression, Marquez as the second, and Tice as the checkdown. We can’t see if Q had a receiver open downfield, or if he did the right thing by holding the ball. But let’s assume no one got open due to good coverage.

All pockets breakdown eventually, and NIU’s DC would probably be real happy about their execution on this play. But then Quinton splits everyone like Leo Messi and just steals their soul. NIU did basically everything right... and gave up 13 yards and a first down.

This play is why Quinton Flowers is your quarterback. That’s some football magic right there.

7:00 1st Quarter:
1st & 10
11 personnel

The very next play is just USF using their speed to stretch teams horozontially. Elkanah Dillon just gets in the way enough to let Adams break free, but Ryeshene Bronson with a great block to finish it.

I wish we had film of it, but last week MVS hit like three guys downfield on the way for a TD. It was glorious, and in a spread system perimeter blocking is huge. The Bulls seem to be doing this well so far.

4:00 1st Quarter:
1st & 10
11 personnel

I believe this play is called “I’m better than you and I can prove it.”

Once that free safety gets caught creepin’, Quinton hits Ryeshene Bronson right down the ladder, and then he makes an even better play than the catch to escape the tackle. But why is the FS creepin’? Because you have to respect the run game of the Bulls both from the QB and RB.

The Bulls didn’t even play-action here or show a zone read before pulling it to throw. Tice was strictly a blocker on this play. But the safety still inched down, and the CB got left on an island and was dusted over the top.

Defense!
2:00 1st Quarter:
3rd & 8
10 personnel
Defense: 4-2-5

Wrinkles are fun! The Bulls dialed up a zone blitz and brought six rushers on an NIU passing down. Watch LB Josh Black on the left side of the line exchange with “striker” Nate Godwin to try and confuse the Huskies. The goal is to try and leave a man unblocked as a free rusher to the passer, and though Nigel Harris does get chipped by the RB, he still forces the back foot throw from Drew Hare.

Tajee Fullwood knocks it down easily in man coverage. Just a nice call by Raymond Woodie or Auggie Sanchez (appears he might have checked to this) and good execution here.

11:00 2nd Quarter:
1st & 10
11 personnel

The Mixed Emotions Throw of the day. Pick a side:

  1. Quinton throws it into double coverage, and if it’s 12 inches in either direction it’s often intercepted. It’s an NFL caliber throw from a guy that often misses these. Should he be firing it into danger like this?
  2. Let. Him. Cook.

There’s good arguments on both sides. If this is against FSU, you’re probably holding your breath and shuddering in fear when he throws this. In the press box I think Nate and Corey Long both heard me say “he can’t make that throw” when the ball was in the air.

But it’s not FSU, it’s NIU. And you’re already leading 17-0. What the hell: let it rip, kid.

3rd Quarter:
3rd & 5
11 personnel

And this is what’s so maddening. You make all these stick throws all over the field. You put guys in space, make the right read to find the open receiver... and then this super-simple throw to keep a drive alive doesn’t get made.

Part of the issue is Quinton’s size. Look at the release point on the throw, which doesn’t look comfortable because he wants to let it go from a higher point. One smart football guy told me he thinks his hands are just a bit too small to get a consistent grip on the ball. And why are you throwing this so hard anyway? Take a bit off it and lead Dillon.

It’s the hole in your QB’s game. But when you see all the amazing plays above, it’s one you’ve gotta live with.

Defense.
11:00 3rd Quarter.
3rd & 2
11 personnel
Defense: 5-2, single high safety

Placed here simply because Nigel Harris has just been awesome this season. This play is made by watching film, playing really smart, and also being a total badass. SO GOOD.