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November 24, 2013

Matt Staton: Rock bottom?

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2-8, 2 and an awful 8. Just when things looked bad against Memphis, it hit a new low against SMU. Credit goes to the USF defense for holding one of the more explosive offenses in the nation in check with just 16 points, but aside from that, things are bad for this team. From coaching to the players on the field, everything is real bad right now. Here are the five things I saw from this game.

Penalties are just a joke right now

Yellow flags for everyone! 13 penalties for 107 yards, this game was a repeat of the Houston game which saw a program record for 19 penalties in that game.

A series late in the 4th quarter summed it all up. After a huge 73 yard strike to Andre Davis, a nice catch from Mike McFarland, and a run from Marcus Shaw, it all came undone for the Bulls. First a false start from Quinterrius Eatmon, then a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Mike White got flagged for the false start. Then a procedure penalty on an illegal shift from Andre Davis killed the drive, forcing bad throws from White and no points despite that great start to the drive.

Holding calls, false starts, roughing the passer, intentional grounding, if there was a penalty in the rule book, it got called in this game. It is so hard to figure out what is going on out there. The coach's coach, the players play, but who is accounting for all the stupid mistakes. Some blame goes on the coaches for not getting people into the right spots, but blame has to go on the players for just making stupid mistakes. Seeing Coach Taggart on the sidelines just watching in silence summed it all up, the season can't end soon enough.

Offensive line is terrible

I've been kicking and screaming about them all year and this game was more of the same. Against a defense that allows over 400 yards total and over 30 points a game, the Bulls were awful and it all starts up front. Eatmon had a holding call, defenders were coming free all night at White, especially from that right side, and there were no running lanes for any USF back. They are so far away from being the power unit that Coach Taggart wants and needs in the trenches. They are a group that is designed for a spread offense and in this power offense under Taggart, they are not up to the task. Dominique Threatt has played a lot this year, but the rest of them, Williams, Gundmundsson, Reiter and especially Eatmon, have been hard to watch. This unit has to be completely reviewed and overhauled next year. If this offense and Coach Taggart's system is going to survive and work in Tampa, it starts up front with these starting 5.

Offense goes lower than rock bottom

SMU defense came into the game allowing over 30 points a game, over 280 passing a game, a defense that couldn't stop their own shadow. The Bulls made them look like Alabama in this game.

259 total yards. Mike White was 19 for 34 for 217 yards but threw two interceptions. Marcus Shaw had 11 carries for 39 yards. Andre Davis had 5 receptions for 113 yards (3rd straight game over 100 yards, program record) but the only score came from a late punt return touchdown from Chris Dunkley. What on earth is going on out there? After the Houston game, it seemed the offense was finding its way with Mike White leading the way. At Houston he was confident, made throws, and looked like he was getting the hang of it. Since then, it's been real, real bad for the young man and there are no answers in sight for him.

What is going on out there? Coach Taggart's offense is complex and he has repeatedly said they just don't have the guys they need right now to get it done. Well coach, maybe scale it back and adjust to the players you have on the roster. It is so hard to figure out what is going on with the offense. It is Coach Taggart and offensive coordinator Walt Wells just not adjusting at all to the situations and players? Or is it the players not adjusting and not getting the job done out there? To me, it's a combination. Plays are bad at times and formations are off, but mistakes and bad plays are killing the offense right now (add the penalties as well). This season can't end soon enough.

Defense playing well

Things are bad, real bad. The Bulls are 2-8 and have got into a tail-spin with two rough road games coming up. A lone bright spot his been the effort and play of the defense. Johnny Ward, Tevin Mims, Hassan Childs (had 2 interceptions), Lamar Robbins, and others continued to battle out there and came up with huge plays. The Bulls were facing one of the best offenses in the country with Coach June Jones calling the pass happy offense, but the Bulls under Coach Bresnahan were able to hold them to just 280 yards. USF got pressure, got a few sacks and interceptions and just kept the Mustangs out of sync the entire game.

Granted, starter Garret Gilbert went out late in the second quarter with a knee injury, but the Bulls still played hard and made plays to keep USF in the game. Yes, Robbins got beat on a touchdown and there mistakes at times but overall they kept the Bulls right in this game. This season continues to hurt everyone to watch, but if there is any bright spot, seeing this defense play at this strong level should give fans a slight smile at times.

Team hasn't quit

Things are bad, real bad. This could be the worst season in program history unless USF can muster another win in the last two weeks. However, despite the doom and gloom around the program, this team has not quit. Last season with Holtz, players quit (look at Shaw) we haven't seen that this year and won't see it no matter how bad things get the last two weeks.

Things are bad, but some credit has to go to the players the coaching staff and how they have kept it together. It is easy to just shut it down, pull up, and just head to the exit, but this team won't do that. Last year, players gave up late in games, didn't go hard at the ball, and everyone could see it. So far, that isn't the case, players are still fighting hard despite the results. Let's hope they don't give up the last two games, if so, things just get worse going forward.



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