Well that was a tough one. Bulls played well enough to win for long stretches, but there is a thin line between winning and losing. USF straddled that line for most of the game and ended up on the wrong side of it when the final whistle blew. There was some bad, but a lot more good.
Defense: Third Downs, Third Downs, Third Downs.
By the numbers, the defense played OK. They held Temple to 4.9 yards per play, about a yard and a half below their first game, and caused two interceptions. Unfortunately, Temple had great average starting field position (own 40) and the Bulls couldn’t get off the field on third down. The Owls went 9-17 on third down with an average distance of 6.2 yards to go. Third down conversions keep drives alive, and thus lead to more scoring opportunities. It’s tough to slow any offense down if you can’t get them off the field on third downs.
Offense: Forward Momentum
The offense looked much better at times, but still had too many mistakes to pull out the victory. Charlie Weis Jr. called his best game of the season. As mentioned on the illustrious Bulluminati Podcast, the offense was likely to open up a bit more when the coaches no longer had to focus on getting four different quarterbacks ready.
Great design by USF on the TD. Use motion to confirm coverage. Then run slant-corner using the tight end’s vertical release as a natural rub. Good patience by St. Felix and great throw by McCloud pic.twitter.com/i9FpBoLGJG— Seth Varnadore (@SethVarnadore) October 17, 2020
However, the performance still left something to be desired. Weis dialed up some open guys in the passing game that were missed, costing the Bulls precious points. The Bulls gained 167 yards on 22 plays on their two long touchdown drives. They only compiled 157 yards on their other 51 plays. For the game USF averaged 4.4 yards per play, which is actually below their season average, only went 4-12 on third downs, and turned the ball over three times.
Overall, the offense is moving in the right direction. They did a better job of finishing drives and taking advantage of some good field position. If they continue to improve at this rate, we may have a very fun product to watch by the end of the season.
Special Teams: Good Enough to Win
Speaking of good field position...The special teams were a bright spot all day aside from a couple of punts. The unit provided the offense with great field position and gave Temple fits all day. They showed great improvement from previous weeks. There is an edge to be had with good special teams , and the Bulls look like they are close to getting that edge.
Now we have to discuss the timeout at the end. With the score being what it is, you must have a two point play in mind before you even begin the drive. That way you have one ready to go when you score. Maybe they had a play in mind but wanted to discuss it further. This would likely be the most important play of the game; I don’t mind a timeout to get it just right.
However, when you call the timeout you must come back with something a little better than that last call. It looks like Temple may have given them a look that they didn’t expect, but you certainly can’t waste two timeouts there. USF may have been better served calling the play they already had in mind, seeing the defensive look, and then calling a timeout if you really needed it.
Losing a timeout is very important, but what do you trust more: the offense getting a two point conversion after a timeout or the defense getting a stop on third down?