After an anemic first half versus Stony Brook on Saturday, No. 19 USF was able to make just enough plays in the second half to put away the Seawolves 31-17.
To describe the Bulls' performance in their home opener as underwhelming would be an understatement. Even head coach Charlie Strong admitted in his post-game press conference that the team played awful.
Per usual, we'll dive into some stats from the box score, assign the proper emojis, and try to make sense of whatever the hell that was on Saturday.
There are a lot of things from this game that get the trash emoji, so let's go over a few.
- First things first, the 4.2 yards per play and 3.1 YARDS PER RUSH the USF offense got against Stony Brook ain't gonna cut it, fam. Not now, not versus later opponents like Temple or Houston, and definitely not in a potential AAC championship game, should they get there.
Even with only a two-game sample size to work with, it's a significant dropoff from last year, when they averaged 7.2 yards per play and 6.5 yards per rush. A lack of setting yourself up in good second down situations eventually leads to...
- A 33% third-down conversion rate through two games. The USF offense consistently stalled out in the first half against the Seawolves, only going 2-for-8 on third downs. They were better in the second half, going 8-for-12.
The Gulf Coast Offense didn’t just work for a year and a half because it could haul ass down the field. The scheme and the players in it were able to keep drives alive and convert in just about any third-down situation. When drives consistently stall out, it shuts down any semblance of a rhythm. It’s something that definitely needs to be improved.
- Special teams and field positioning were objectively better than they were versus San Jose State. Emilio Nadelman was better on kickoffs, and he and Large Adult Punter pinned Stony Brook inside their own 20 multiple times. But you can't keep getting punts blocked. That's two weeks in a row where a blocked punt has ultimately resulted in a touchdown. Can't happen.
- Saturday wasn't the crispest day for Quinton Flowers, but he did manage to use the depth on hand at wideout. Seven different receivers caught at least two passes.
- There have been a lot of easy dropped passes in these first two outings. He caught one before, but some have been like Tyre McCants' drop in the fourth quarter that would've gone for six had it been hauled in. That’s another thing that needs to be cleaned up offensively as the season moves forward.
Stony Brook showed up to hit some guys. They tackled well, they tackled hard, they jumped on piles, they played until the echo of the whistle. Actually USF games have been noticeably more physical so far this year, because the Bulls like knocking the other team around, too.
For the second straight week, the USF defense gets a clapping emoji. Stony Brook ran 70 plays for only 239 yards, an average of 3.3 yards per play.
A nice touch in this game was their ability to create "havoc" plays. USF’s defense clocked in with 12 TFLs, five sacks, five pass break-ups, and two key interceptions in the fourth quarter. Through two contests, they already have a third of their total picks from 2016.
Other than some problems defending crossing routes at times and the 54-yard touchdown run by Stony Brook running back Stacey Bedell in the fourth, the defense seems to being doing exactly what's been asked of them so far this season. Let's see how they fare against tougher competition in the next few weeks.
Awful lot of empty seats for a ranked team, wouldn’t you say?
But a tip of the cap to the students. They had a lot of excuses not to show up (rain, weird start time, the poor scheduling of sorority rush activities) but they came out strong yesterday. Do that every game, please. Your fellow students on the field will thank you.
Not anything related to the box score, but this was the face I was making for most of the time I was watching this game.
Look, this is supposed to be the funnest season USF has ever experienced, and it still can be! But this game felt like a complete chore to watch, the first time I've felt that way about a USF football game since the first half of 2015.
Fortunately, the season just started and there's still plenty of time to adjust offensively. It's happened before. See the aforementioned 2015 season as a prime example. We'll see if they come out of the gate firing in their conference opener at UConn this Saturday... an annual matchup that totally isn't prone to getting weird.