Not much good can be said about the effort the South Florida Bulls had last night versus East Carolina. They won. The defense carried the team and came up with the timely turnover to seal the game.
How did USF—a 21-point favorite—just barely escape an ECU team that lost to North Carolina A&T, and who has also been living in a hotel in Orlando for over a week?
The Offensive Line Was #Bad
The offensive line was responsible for six of the nine penalties assessed to the USF offense last week at Illinois and while they didn’t commit a penalty tonight, they could not create holes for running back Jordan Cronkrite and did an even worse job keeping quarterback Blake Barnett upright throughout the game.
There were multiple occasions that an offensive lineman was perpendicular to the line of scrimmage in pass protection, which is not a good sign. Left guard Hal Roberson, RG William Atterbury, and RT Marcus Norman were all personally responsible for at least one of the six sacks allowed.
Barnett was hit particularly hard on two sacks and thrown down like rag doll on another. It’s amazing he didn’t break his hip on one of the sacks.
Cronkrite’s 80-yard touchdown run was the lone bright spot for the OL yesterday. Center Michael Wiggs and Atterbury were able to create push and get to the second level and give Cronk just enough space to burst through the hole and waltz into the end zone untouched.
So. Many. Injuries.
We’ve got no kick returner. We’ve got no running backs..
Wanna know how badly beat up this team is? Reserve wide receiver Kyle Trina, who was also the holder for the first two games, is sporting a cast on his left hand. THE HOLDER.
Joining Trina on the injury list are:
- RB Duran Bell (Ankle)
- RB Trevon Sands (Undisclosed)
- RB Elijah Mack (Ankle)
- RB Dave Small (Undisclosed)
- WR Terrence Horne (Torn ACL, out for the season)
- DT Rashawn Yates (Left foot in boot)
- WR Ryeshene Bronson (Knee sprain)
Added to the list yesterday:
- TE Mitchell Wilcox (Ankle)
- WR Tyre McCants (Was seen limping off field after the game)
- LB Nico Sawtelle (Undisclosed)
That’s a lot of talent on offense to be missing at once. Cronkrite was the only RB with more than ten carries entering Saturday’s game that was healthy and had more than ten carries this season. RB Johnny Ford hadn’t played since the season opener and he had five carries for 13 yards and one catch for 39 yards. These injuries are testing the depth of the skill positions and we saw what happened when Barnett’s safety blanket, Wilcox, was not on the field.
Luckily, the Bulls have a bye week to get healthy. All indications are that outside of Horne, everyone SHOULD be back October 6 at UMass, or just after.
ECU’s offense found themselves in a bunch of third down situations, 24 of them in fact. They managed to convert ten of them to help extend drives, especially in the first half. The Pirates were 7-of-13 on third downs prior to halftime. But key adjustments again by USF defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary held the Pirates to just 3-of-11 in the second half and had a string of six consecutive stops on third down in the second half.
ECU’s second half drive chart: FG (after Deangelo Antoine’s fumble), punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, punt, game-ending interception.
On the flip side, USF was just atrocious on third down the entire night, converting just three-of-13 attempts throughout the game. After Barnett scored on third and goal from the ECU two-yard line with 7:07 left in the first quarter, the Bulls went 1-for-10 on third down the rest of the game.
USF had 14 offensive drives versus ECU, eight were of the three-and-out variety. In the 38 drives during the first three games combined, the Bulls went three-and-out four (4) times.
Bad offensive line play (and injuries) will get you beat more often than not. Ask Willie Taggart.
The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Head coach Charlie Strong said for the second straight week that the players were not ready to play and did not play with physicality in the trenches. Something about that needs to get fixed before the Bulls travel to Houston on October 27, otherwise it’ll be a very long day trying to stop Ed Oliver and company.