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October 27, 2013
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The Bulls lost an ugly game 34-3 to Louisville on homecoming. USF held on, trailing 7-3 at the end of the 1st half, but bad offense, a defense that got gashed, and the lack of execution and playmakers made sure the Bulls would fall to 2-5 (2-1) on the year. Here is some of my analysis after this game and where we go next.
Defense gets dinked and dunked
The defense knew they were in for a long day in the office and it came true. Teddy Bridgewater was nearly perfect with 25 out of 29 passes for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns, just dumping passes off short to Dominic Brown and others all day. The Bulls dropped 8 players back on a regular basis, trying to take away the deep routes and make Bridgewater throw into coverage, but the soft zone failed.
Time after time, the Cards were able to throw it underneath and the backs and receivers were able to get huge chunks of yardage and get up field, keeping the Bulls defense on the field for a long time. USF got pressure, sometimes, but Bridgewater was just too good. I think overall Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan called a decent game (not the greatest of his career) but USF players were just out-matched and outskilled in this game. USF is coming along and the defense is holding together, but it is hard to be out on the field for more than 40 minutes in a game when the offense struggles to just get a first down.
Offensive line looks awful
The offense was awful, just awful again. 133 total yards on the day, no touchdowns again, setting a program record in the process with 3 straight games with no offensive touchdowns. It is painful to watch and it all starts up front with the offensive line.
Time after time, the Cardinals were able to get pressure right up the middle against our guards. Then on other players, both Eatmon and Williams were beaten badly off the edges. I watched it happen many times, players would rush, make one move and would rush right past our tackles, bringing heat on the USF quarterbacks and clogging up the running lanes.
The offensive line has been awful all year, but against a simple 4 man rush of the Cardinals, it was even worse today. Even when the third team defense was taking on the Bulls late in the game, they were still getting pressure and forcing Bench and eventually Mike White to run for it and throw the ball away. Coach Taggart and Coach Wells will have to figure it out to get the line to just block better. Whether it is scheme, talent, I can't say for the sure, but if they aren't able to get a man blocked, the offense will continue to struggle just like this.
Playmakers still battling
The loss was ugly, there is no question about that, but this team is still battling and still believing in what the coaching staff is preaching to them.
DeDe Lattimore, Reshard Cliett, Ryne Giddins, freshman Darius Tice, etc. are playing at very high levels right now and are making plays. Is it enough? Not really, we have 5 losses on the year and have looked bad, but many players are doing their best and battling out there on each play.
Coach Willie Taggart has continued to say he needs players to make plays, well he got some today. We all know the talent and experience is not there for this team, they are learning on the job. We continue to see players flying to the ball and battle. There are a few playmakers on this team and the younger players are slowly becoming new ones. It's a long, rebuilding process, but we are starting to see the pieces coming together.
Mike White era begins
This was the biggest topic that occurred late in the game and got USF fans all upset and confused at the move. With about 2 minutes left, Steven Bench came off the field (after a failed drive) and the next time the Bulls took the field (minute left) freshman Mike White took the field. Wait, what?
White, a former 3-star recruit, had been expected to learn and redshirt this season with Bench taking the reps after Bobby Eveld went down. But Coach Taggart had other ideas. White came into the game, completed 1 pass as the clock was slowly counting down and burned his redshirt in the process.
Why? Why now and for what reason? Taggart said it was to find a spark for the offense and decided White had a chance to do it. For myself, I'm alright with the move but wonder if it could have been done a little bit sooner. We all know Eveld was never the answer at quarterback and Bench hasn't been able to stay healthy long enough, although he hasn't done too much when he has been out there on the field. Coach Taggart made the call and now we have to live with it. Taggart said White will likely get the start on Thursday night against Houston, so now we have to live with a freshman calling the shots on offense and trying to spark a unit that is probably the worst in the country at this stage.
So we have a true freshman taking over on a short week, hitting the road on a Thursday (USF 0-9 since 2003 on Thursdays) and on national TV. Let's see how this go.
Still in this thing
Bowl game is a far cry right now, but we are still 2-1 at this stage! Look, USF is not setting the world on fire and probably shouldn't have a win at this stage the way the offense has played (or not), but we are 2-1 in the league.
Typically, the Bulls have always had a hard time in any conference they have been in, but they have a chance to play spoiler and contend for the title and make life hard for others. Coach Taggart has said it before, winning the the AAC is their goal and they still have a snowball's chance. I'm not saying they will, they might fall flat with the dangerous game at Houston coming, but they still have a chance. Let's play spoiler, let's beat people we are supposed to and see how this team continues to progress down the stretch.