South Florida’s 56-20 beatdown of Towson is officially in the history books. The Bulls had an expected impressive outing vs. an FCS opponent to start the season at 1-0.
Partially inspired by SB Nation’s Bill Connelly and Steven Godfrey’s “Blind Box Score Bingo” exercise on their weekly podcast (highly recommended listen), I wanted to do a weekly look at the box score to see if there were any particular trends or stats that told the story of how the game progressed, and what ultimately led to the final result.
Let’s dive right in...
The biggest box score takeaway, other than the final score, was USF’s efficient use of time whenever they touched the ball. Despite holding possession for only 22:20 vs. Towson’s 37:40, the Bulls were able to move the ball downfield at a much quicker rate than their FCS foe, which is the exact aim of the Gulf Coast Offense. The unit ended the game averaging an impressive 6.7 yards per play (444 total) vs. Towson’s 3.2 (232 total).
Picking up from last season, the vast majority of green and gold snaps were through their rushing attack. The Bulls rushed 62% of the time, averaging 5.2 yards per rush and 214 total yards on the ground. In comparison, the Bull Sharks stifled the the Tigers’ power attack which we talked about in out preview, only allowing 2.6 yards per rush and 127 total rushing yards.
While accuracy is still somewhat of an issue for Quinton Flowers through the air, when he connected on Saturday, he made it count. The junior quarterback went 8 for 18 in three quarters of action, but averaged 22.3 yards per completion with his arm, including this 51 yard bomb to debuting receiver transfer Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Third down efficiency was another key. USF converted on 6 of 12 third down scenarios. Towson in comparison went 6 for 22. Encouraging numbers for both units, even with a non-FBS opponent.
Capitalizing on any and every opportunity to score is a tidbit that coaches heavily emphasize when talking about keys to victory. Coach Taggart’s bunch did just that on Saturday.
The Bulls scored touchdowns on all four red zone trips. USF was a solid 87.8% in red zone scoring in 2015, so if the unit can continually keep that pace and finish drives throughout this season, they’ll be set.
“Winning the turnover battle" seems like a cliche truism that you see TV broadcasts arbitrarily include in their “Keys to Victory” segments at the beginning of games. But it’s true how important capitalizing on those given opportunities is to a team’s success. USF scored 21 of their 56 points off takeaways on Saturday.
The best example of this was Nigel Harris’ 49-yard INT return, which set up a five-yard Quinton Flowers scamper into the end zone on the very next play.
As expected vs. an FCS opponent at home, South Florida was extremely efficient across the board on both sides of the football, making the most with the limited time they had possession on one side while taking away Towson’s strength in the run and forcing turnovers on the other.
While there are obvious flaws and kinks that need to be addressed as the Bulls begin playing tougher opponents (looking directly at you, special teams), there were several positive trends and indicators of success that USF should look to continue to build on as the season continues.