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Ugly, hideous, and just flat out painful to watch, but a win is a win. The Bulls pulled off a historic win in Connecticut, winning 13 to 10, the first win at Uconn since 2000. The offense struggled, the defense allowed a lot of yards (356 total) but they somehow, someway, got the win. The team was wounded (no Bench or Shaw) yet they notched victory number 2 of the year.
Offense was offensive
The offense was horrible in this game. Steven Bench and Marcus Shaw were both out and the Bulls struggled to get anything going in this game. Bobby Eveld struggled all day. He was just 8 for 28 for 106 yards and an interception, throwing into heavy coverage and struggling to handle the pressure that came at him all day. The offensive line didn't make Eveld's life easy, but when he had time, he stared down receivers and threw into coverage, making life hard for anyone to catch a clean pass and showing how bad the Bulls are at quarterback.
The running game showed signs of life even with Marcus Shaw sidelined. Darius Tice had 11 carries for 69 yards, showing a nice burst and ability to get to the second level. I have been critical of him recently, but he showed that ability to get up field into the second level. The biggest surprise was the emergence of Willie Davis, a forgotten name in the backfield. Davis had 8 carries for 38 yards, but in the 2nd quarter, Davis had several carries where he lowered his shoulder and dragged defenders with him. He has always been a power back, but has been a forgotten player but showed up when they called his number. I hope we continue to see him progress and use his power when needed on the running attack.
Overall, the offense was ugly. Just over 200 yards total, failures to make drives happen, and inability to complete and sustain long drives, yet when it came down to clutch time, they did it. The offense was able drive late in the game and found a way to get the field goal on the clutch leg of Marvin Kloss.
They didn't record an interception despite dropping several gifts, but they held on and made the key plays when they need. Lyle McCombs gashed the defense all day as the Uconn defense played inspired ball for their new interim HC, but it wasn't enough as the defense held when they needed to.
The strip by Ryne Giddins and the fumble return for the touchdown by Aaron Lynch were probably the biggest plays of the game, but everyone battled and made contributions. Luke Sager made keep stops late, Dede Lattimore made huge tackles and swarmed to the ball and Aaron Lynch, the guy I've called out so many times, had his first sack of the year and got pressure a lot in the backfield.
The defense has proven it can come through. The blocked another FG (hello Mike McFarland), go the strip and touchdown run back, and got huge tackles for loss late and held on. With the offense struggling as bad as they are and as short handed the defense was (no Mims, Watson) they somehow got the job done and secured the win. They are truly our best offense right now and will have to continue their impressive play the rest of the year of the Bulls are to win a few more games and make some noise in the AAC.
They found a way
Two straight games without an offensive touchdown and two straight wins. It's been ugly, aggravating, but this team is somehow getting it done. It isn't perfect, there is a lot of work to, but they are starting to see the results.
Last year, the Bulls typically found a way to lose close games like these, making mental mistakes and bad plays late to hand the game away, but it has shifted a bit now. The Bulls are making those critical turnovers, making the key stops, and making the clutch plays in order to put themselves in the right spot to win the game.
I'm sure that Coach Taggart and staff are not happy the way the team is getting the wins, the players aren't either. They have a lot of work to do, but they will take the wins. Like Al Davis said, just win baby.
Two straight and standing at the tops of the AAC with Louisville and others. Not a bad spot to be in and now the Bulls have a bye week to continue their work and get Steven Bench and Marcus Shaw healthy. So where do they go now? They have Louisville in two weeks which could be an ugly game for the Bulls, but there are still a lot of winnable games on this schedule if the Bulls continue to come up with the big plays and play lights out defense.
It is way too early for the Bulls to talk about a winning record in the AAC, but they have a chance to finish the year strong. We have to see this team continue to progress, continue to work, and the results will slowly come. It won't be pretty, but they are slowing getting to where they want to be.
Matt Staton is a weekly columnist for Runningthebulls.com and an alumnus of USF.