The South Florida Bulls escaped Chicago with a 25-19 win over Illinois on Saturday and head coach Charlie Strong was none too pleased after the game and it carried over into Monday’s press conference. Let’s dive into what Coach had to say about last week and facing ECU on Saturday.
Strong: You don’t ever want to be a penalized team. That’s not who we are.— Award Winner Nathan Bond (@BullsNathanSBN) September 17, 2018
14 flags on Saturday. 12 in first two games
In two games against the Illini (2017 and 2018), the Bulls were flagged a combined 30 times, only this time it nearly caught up with them. On fourth and seven inside Illini territory, LT Eric Mayes was flagged for tripping—one of three penalties on Mayes— which negated a first down catch by tight end Mitchell Wilcox from junior quarterback Blake Barnett. The Bulls had to punt instead, stalling a promising drive.
Kicker Colby Weiss made a 35-yard field goal in third quarter, but a false start negated that attempt and he proceeded to miss from 40-yards. An illegal substitution penalty on fourth and four also kept an Illinois drive alive.
“Number one is penalties,. You don’t ever wanna be a penalized team,” Strong said on what he wants to see his team improve on. “That all comes from discipline. You want to be a disciplined team. We had 14 penalties on Saturday which is not who we are, it’s not who we want to be, and so we’re going to have to get that corrected.”
Strong: The defense got out of their gaps on the second drive but it was rectified later on.— Award Winner Nathan Bond (@BullsNathanSBN) September 17, 2018
“We knew we were gonna have to stop the split zone and the counter (runs). Those were going to be the key plays (for Illinois),” Strong said. “We didn’t do a good job of fitting it. Any time you allow a lineman to get to the second level the ball’s gonna get the safety and then the safety is gonna have to make a one-on-one tackle.”
Defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary figured out how to stop the Illini offense after the second drive of the game where the Bulls allowed them to score on a three-play, 80-yard drive capped by RB Mike Epstein’s 43-yard TD run.
After that point, Illinois averaged under four yards per play and gained just 300 yards of offense the rest of the day. In the second half the Bulls allowed just 149 yards of offense with 50 coming on the final drive.
Strong: Last Tuesday’s practice was awful. They missed a day because they had to correct the mistakes from Tuesday— Award Winner Nathan Bond (@BullsNathanSBN) September 17, 2018
“The thing we always have to be able to do is have the right focus when we walk into a game and it started last week,” Strong said. “You just can’t sleepwalk your way through a first half when you know you’re going to get someone’s best and you’re on the road.”
Charlie Strong: My prayers go out to the people in North Carolina and the families of the 17 people who have lost their lives due to Hurricane Florence.— Award Winner Nathan Bond (@BullsNathanSBN) September 17, 2018
Hurricane Florence has caused massive flooding and is responsible for 23 total deaths, 17 in North Carolina and six in South Carolina.
To escape from the danger and not get stranded in North Carolina, ECU traveled to Orlando last week and has been preparing there ever since. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted.
Saturday’s game is at 8 p.m. on ESPNews.
Strong: RB Duran Bell ran yesterday and it’ll be a later in the week decision— Award Winner Nathan Bond (@BullsNathanSBN) September 17, 2018
Jaymon Thomas and Bentlee Sanders didn’t practice until Thursday so they “weren’t really ready to play”
Redshirt freshman safety Nick Roberts and redshirt freshman cornerback Vincent Davis each earned their first career start due to Thomas and Sanders being held out.
“Vincent really loves to play and he comes with a lot of energy and plays hard and did a really good job.”
Davis finished with five tackles, including splitting a block on a WR screen and making an open-field tackle for a short gain. Roberts added seven solo tackles of his own.
Strong: LG Demetris Harris is nursing an ankle injury which is why Hal Roberson got the start. Said Roberson played very well.— Award Winner Nathan Bond (@BullsNathanSBN) September 17, 2018
In the second half the offensive line began to click and offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert recognized that Illinois had practically given up rushing the passer and resorted to trying to bat the ball down, but it gave Barnett and the wide outs plenty of time to stretch the field. Barnett had as much as four seconds to sit in the pocket and let the deep routes develop before throwing the ball.
Strong: We let (Colby) Weiss kick because Jake Vivonetto didn’t kick in the second game.— Award Winner Nathan Bond (@BullsNathanSBN) September 17, 2018
Doesn’t seem like Vivonetto was still sick.
Strong says the first missed FG was blocked
Couple this news with Strong’s post-game comments of “Once we find a kicker, we’ll be fine”, it doesn’t look great for Weiss or Vivonetto. Vivonetto missed last week’s game versus Georgia Tech due to an illness, but made every attempt in the opener versus Elon. One has to assume he had not performed well in practice leading up to the game.
Aussie punter Trent Schneider is dealing with a hamstring injury and did not have a great day. He put two kickoffs out-of-bounds and averaged just 34.5 yards on his two punts. Former USF soccer goalie Jake Stone made his debut after replacing Schneider and averaged 37.3 yards on three punts.