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Box Score Takeaways: USF Football vs. Syracuse

South Florida fell behind early, but had no problems erasing a 17-point deficit on the way to victory over Syracuse.

South Florida v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Despite trailing 17-0 after one quarter, South Florida found their footing and cruised to a 45-20 victory over Syracuse in the sweltering Carrier Dome on Saturday.

In a showdown of Willie Taggart and Dino Babers’ hyperspeed offenses, the Bulls gained the upper hand down the stretch, outscoring the Orange 45-3 in the final three quarters to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2011. As usual, there’s certain box score stats that tell us the story of this game...

Orange Snaps Plenty, Little to Show For It

The Eric Dungey-led Syracuse offense stayed on the field for the vast majority of the game (37:48 to be exact) and set both a school and ACC record with 105 plays. Despite entering triple digits in total snaps, the Orange only mustered twenty points for their efforts.

After allowing scores on the first three drives to fall behind 17-0, the Bullshark defense virtually shut out the up-tempo Orange attack, allowing only a single 48-yard field goal in the final three quarters.

While Syracuse did pick up 549 total yards and converted 12 of 24 third-down attempts, they were inefficient in actually getting anywhere. They averaged only 5.1 yards per play, with several of their long drives stalling out. Syracuse ran only two plays in the USF red zone, both in their first possession of the game.

Here were the Orange’s drive results after going ahead 17-0:

  • Turnover on Downs
  • Interception
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Fumble
  • Turnover on Downs
  • Field Goal
  • Punt
  • Interception
  • Punt
  • Punt

Taggart perfectly summed up his defense’s resiliency in the post game presser. “Football nowadays, people will get yardage. The key is keeping them out of the end zone. Our guys did a good job of keeping them out of the end zone.”

In comparison, the Gulf Coast Offense was more efficient, as Quinton Flowers and company averaged 7.1 yards per play and completed four of their six scoring drives in two minutes or less.

Capitalizing on Field Position

Part of the reason Syracuse ran so many plays was because USF’s special teams kept pinning them back deep in their own territory. Jonathan Hernandez put five of his seven punts inside the 20, and kick coverage was good overall.

The average Syracuse drive began on their own 19-yard line, with only one series starting beyond the 30. That forced the Orange to grind out numerous third-down scenarios just to make it to midfield.

Meanwhile, the average USF drive began on their own 31, including two series that started in Syracuse territory and ended with touchdowns. Combine this with D’Ernest Johnson’s punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and you can see how winning the field position battle benefited the green and gold.

Spreading the Wealth

We’ve talked ad nauseum about the plethora of weapons South Florida has in their arsenal. Nine different players found the end zone in USF’s wins over Towson and Northern Illinois. That depth was on full display once again in upstate New York. Seven different Bulls caught passes, while six different players had at least two carries. It can’t be stated enough how valuable getting as many guys involved as possible will be vital for this offense down the road.

Marlon Mack’s 120 yards on nine carries seemed effortless, while Rodney Adams (the master of jet sweeps) had two rushing touchdowns and a third receiving.

End Game

After getting punched in the mouth early on, USF’s offense and defense were able to settle down in the second quarter. The offense shredded an injury-riddled Orange team, while the defense forced the high-tempo Syracuse offense into stat-padding, ineffective drives that went nowhere.

Now a confident Bulls squad sets their sights on the most anticipated home game in years against a suddenly wounded Florida State team at high noon on Saturday.