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Bullets For The Bulls: Thoughts From San Jose

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On USF fans melting down, dropped passes, newcomers making plays, and other musings from NoCal.

NCAA Football: South Florida at San Jose State Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot of little things and thoughts you have when you attend a football game. Each week we’ll try and piece all of them here.

- Watching USF fans go full batshit for the first 15 minutes of the game was so disappointing. Here’s a random sample of my Twitter mentions and texts from my phone. I used screenshots so don’t try erasing them now.

“Sterling Gilbert is a moron.”

“Too early to fire Charlie?”

It could be concerning when the dream season you’ve envisioned as possible seems in peril after 15 minutes. The offense couldn’t move anything, the special teams were atrocious, and the defense wasn’t in any position to do much about it.

But I mean... COME ON Y’ALL. Did everyone forget the Syracuse game last year? I know it’s a new coach, but seriously? And if you were paying attention, you would have noticed that the defense was dominating at the line of scrimmage, the special teams were freakishly, unsustainably bad, and the offense just hadn’t found a rhythm. USF was physically dominating on both sides of the ball.

MVS might have put a ball in the end zone but for an uncalled pass interference. Johnson couldn’t find the right holes in the line of scrimmage. Flowers should have pulled a couple zone reads, but handed them off instead.

If this was ever going to be a close game, this would be a disaster in terms of execution. But USF was a 20+ point favorite for a reason: because they are a far better football team than San Jose State, who are quite terrible. It was never in jeopardy.

There’s a reason USF fans get scared: they’ve been burned more times we can count. The history of our program is littered with unmet expectations. But instantly defaulting to “OH NO WE SUCK AGAIN!” after about twenty-ish snaps is lurching way too far into the breach. Even by Bulls Country standards.

- I asked Charlie Strong after the game why he didn’t attempt a Hail Mary at the half in what was an odd situation, but one that could have benefited the Bulls. With the game clock winding and about 20 seconds left, it was 4th and 5 for USF at the San Jose State 42-yard line. Both teams had two timeouts left. San Jose State chose not to call timeout, probably because they didn’t want also give the USF a chance to think about it and maybe go for it, or bring on Emilio Nadelman for a 59-yard attempt. USF had scored a TD on their last four possessions, so this might make some sense.

But here’s the thing: if your USF, you can call timeout with one second left, and take a shot at a Hail Mary with as close to zero downside as you can have.

"I was just trying to get us outta there because we knew we had the ball at the start of the second half," he said. This is terrible reasoning and worse logic. Because there is never a bad time to try to score when your opponent can’t. Ever.

Quinton Flowers has the arm to put it in the end zone seats from there if needed. You’ve got tons of talented wide receivers, many of whom are tall. There is very close to zero harm in taking a free shot at seven points there as Hail Mary’s get run back for touchdowns less than once every several thousand attempts. A strip-sack-scoop-score is possible, but so far down the outcome tree it’s not even worth considering. And these are literally the only bad things that can happen.

I get not kicking a field goal, because it’s 59 yards and could be blocked and Kick Six’s happen. But bad things don’t happen to the offense on Hail Mary’s.

To Strong’s credit, the Bulls did go for it on several 4th and shorts. But this was clearly a game management mistake.

- San Jose State has issues, and they seem to run deeper than football. How can a team in that area of the country, with literally hundreds of billions of tech dollars surrounding the campus on all sides, be so bad at football? How can their game presentation be so poor? Why aren’t there any fans there? What’s the deal??

I have no idea, but I was pretty unimpressed with the facility, the fan support, and the overall state of the program. It might be related to the UC/Cal State system split, where the UC schools have a loftier status than their less-prestigious state system brethren. But San Diego State isn’t this deep in the hole.

The folks I met and interacted with were great. But if your announced attendance for you home opener is a smidge over 13,000 (I guess they use Ray Jay math there too), and you’ve had two winning seasons this millennium, it’s clearly not going well.

- Chris Barr had three targets, zero receptions, and at least two of them were very catchable balls. You don’t want to make too much of one game, but... USF has such ridiculous depth at wide receiver, anyone can play themselves out of the rotation really quickly.
Deangelo Antoine and Ryeshene Bronson didn’t make the trip due to injuries. Temi Alaka wasn’t even on the depth chart as of last week, and he caught a 49-yard TD in the first half. It’s almost a bit unfair, but Barr will likely want to play better next week or he could possibly see less time. And next week it could easily be someone else in this same position.

- How about it for Kelvin Pinkney. Getting extra time due to the ejection of Deadrin Senat, the true freshman makes six tackles and blocks a PAT. Next man up, indeed.

- The tackling looked much, much better than last season. Lets not get too carried away, because it’s possible SJSU has a bottom 10 offense in college football this year, but the Bulls seemed much more able to get their man to the ground. Especially in one-on-one situations.

It was the biggest point of emphasis in practice, and it seemed to pay dividends. Let’s see them keep it going.

- That turf was brutally hot, overloaded with new tire pellets that hadn’t settled yet, and the Bulls indeed struggled with their footing. I never know how much of this can be placed on the shoes, and how much just can’t be controlled. But it seems like every week there’s a team in college football that can’t keep their traction. There’s got to be something to this beyond just having the right cleats.

- USF ran a team record 101 offensive plays... and not a single screen. They ran a team record 74 rushing plays... the overwhelming amount seeming to be inside zone or “midline.” But when they absolutely had to have something in short yardage situations, that’s when they went outside zone.

And this might be the biggest difference between Sterlin Gilbert’s package from Willie Taggart’s: was there one bubble attempted yesterday?

We may not see a lot of screens this season, and that’s because USF might choose to break those out against better opponents. Screens are the plays that can vary the most from offense to offense, so putting them on film before you have to isn’t optimal. But they won’t have many good opponents either, so who knows when you’ll see them.

USF ran just one jet sweep as well, a staple of the Gulf Coast Offense, but that’s probably got as much to do with losing Rodney Adams as anything.

- Greg Reaves almost celebrated his new scholarship with a pick six, just barely missing one deep inside SJSU territory. Davion Sutton got 10 carries for 47 yards late in the game, leading us in the press box to wonder... who is Davion Sutton? No, really, we had no idea. Apparently he had previously played for Arkansas Baptist College, but there’s no stats on him since attending Fivay High School. Does he have a scholarship? We don’t think so, but who knows??

That’s what happens when you get a new coach: any sort of caste system based on previous coaching goes out the window. New guys will get opportunities you couldn’t have imagined before.