We've had more than 48 hours to stew on USF's 28-24 loss to Houston so let's dive into this latest Box Score EMOJICAP and assess the damage.
There were several gross things that stand out in the box score when you look at it.
- 7 of 23 on third downs. Gross.
- Inefficiency on first downs. Gross.
- Beating Houston in time of possession by seven minutes and still coming away with the L. Gross.
But the one that stuck out the most?
2.5 YARDS PER CARRY ON FIFTY-FIVE RUSHING ATTEMPTS. YUCK.
Listen, we know that Houston's defense is anchored by a future top NFL Draft pick in Ed Oliver. That will make things complicated for a power-run oriented team.
But as I pointed out in the preview, Houston went into Saturday rated 85th in defensive rushing success rate, meaning teams were having success running the football on them. I mean hell, Tulsa put 288 yards and 5.4 yards per carry on them.
You have to come up with more creative ways to get those yards on the ground, fam.
After two drives that yielded only four yards total, Cougars head coach Major Applewhite rolled the dice and benched senior Kyle Postma in favor of sophomore quarterback D'Eriq King, who had been playing some receiver for UH this season.
The Manvel, Texas native took a beating from the aggressive USF defense. He was sacked five times, but he also held his own. King was 12-of-21 for 137 yards and a touchdown through the air while rushing for 83 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. It was exactly three years ago that converted wide receiver Greg Ward Jr. began his folk legend status as Houston's starting QB, and it looks like King is following the same exact path.
Also, with Duke Catalon hurt in the second half, Mulbah Car stepped in to bulldoze his way for 137 yards and a touchdown. So basically Houston pulled ahead late with their QB3 and RB3. Wonderful.
What really irked me personally more than anything from this game was the back end of the final drive.
After effectively moving the ball downfield with a few D'Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice runs, a 20-yard Marquez Valdes-Scantling reception and a 16-yard Quinton Flowers run off a read-option pull, USF has the ball on the Houston 19, forcing Applewhite to take a timeout with 3:08 remaining.
Instead of at least trying for the end zone to put all the pressure on Houston to march down the field for the TD, Charlie Strong elects to power it down with two aimless Johnson runs (yes, indeed up the middle) to set up an easy Emilio Nadelman field goal.
Not necessarily giving away a big lead in this instance, but Jamie wrote how previous Strong teams played around with fire by powering it down and well....
4th and 24...
It's a real freak play when you go back and look at it. Ronnie Hoggins, Auggie Sanchez, and Mike Hampton are all in perfect position to knock down the pass and Courtney Lark somehow comes down with it.
There were several other factors that led to the collapse, but 4th and 24 is one of those moments that will be replaying in the nightmares of USF fans for a long, long time.
At the end of the day, the loss changes nothing except the “0” in the loss column.
USF's dreams of winning the division, the American championship game, and making it to a New Year's Six bowl game is still within grasp. However, the margin for error is now much less, and they will really have to tighten things up in these last three (potentially four) games of the regular season.