What a game this was for the Bulls. Down 27 to 7 at the half, the USF faithful were calling for changes and for players to be benched. Yet, despite the anger and chatter from the fans, the Bulls rallied and came away with one of the most impressive wins in recent history. With this win, the Bulls are at 3-4 (2-1) on the year and have a lot to build off of after this win. This was huge in the rebuilding of this young program.
It was an ugly first half for the USF offense. After a pick-six thrown from Mike White, there wasn’t a lot to cheer for aside from the touchdown run from Marlon Mack. Mack, aside from that run, was held in check for the first half. Mike White looked lost with this throws, missing open targets and struggling to move the offense down the field. At one point, late in the 2nd half, Steven Bench was warming up and some were wondering if Coach Taggart was going to make a major change to try to spark the offense. However, Coach Taggart never made the changed and it worked out well for everyone. White finished the game 17 for 26 for 272 yards including 3 second half touchdowns, hitting Andre Davis (6 grabs for 154 yards overall) time after time. White was able to shake off the rust and delivered great passes all over the field to help spur the rally for the Bulls. His throws were well placed and hit targets on key third down situations late in the game. White matured in front of our eyes and could be getting better as the season goes on. Rodney Adams caught 3 passes for 17 yards, Sean Price caught 2 passes for 20 yards and Deonte Welch caught 1 for 26 yards. Davis tied the school record for 14 career touchdowns, adding his name to more records in his final season.
Overall, the offense line did well and got better as the game went on. Marlon Mack had 19 carries for 130 yards and scored 2 touchdowns (also caught 2 passes for 24 yards) as he continues his impressive freshmen season (getting closer to the freshman rushing record). Mack again carried the load and continues to show he is the man in the backfield. D’Ernest Johnson had 6 carries for 33 yards and caught a pass for 10 yards, getting more carries and showing a nice burst when he got on the field. If the run game and Mike White continue to play at this level moving forward, the offense will be able to help support the defense and will give everyone problems moving forward.
The unit did not have Reshard Cliett and Chris Dunkley (injuries) and Todd Chandler sat for the first half (coach’s decision) and it showed in the first half as they allowed 27 points to be scored against them. They were beaten at the point of attack at times and failed to cover receivers down the field. Yet, despite giving up 488 yards during the entire game, they shut Tulsa down in the second half, allowing just 1 field goal as they flustered Dane Evans and the Gold Hurricanes offense, forcing 3 and outs late in the game and giving the offense a chance to rally back. It wasn’t their best game and they know it, but showing they could rally after being smacked in the first half showed the coaching and ability to dig deep and come out strong in the 2nd half (7 TFL in the game for them). Auggie Sanchez had 11 tackles and Nigel Harris, back after an ankle injury last week, had 8 tackles. Elkino Watson had 7 tackles, 1 sack, and 3.5 TFL as he destroyed the backfield for the entire game Tashon Whitehurst had 7 tackles and Nate Godwin and Devin Abraham each had 6 tackles a piece (note that Kendall Sawyer and Deadrin made starts in this game, more youth getting the go).
It was a solid day for the special teams unit, no major mistakes occurred. Marvin Kloss hit a field goal late to ice the game for the Bulls. Rodney Adams was solid returning kicks for the injured Chris Dunkley. Mattias Ciabatti averaged 46.4 yards per punt attempt and continues to show he is one of the best in the AAC. Overall, it was a good day at the office for the unit.
This was a huge win for the Bulls. Things looked bleak for Coach Taggart and his team on the road, but they woke up after half time and showed they were not going to let this game get away from them. The team rallied for one of the biggest comebacks in program history and now they are at 3 wins on the year, a major improvement over last year and now they can build from this. They are now on the road again this week as they head to Cincinnati. For this team, they can build off of this experience and use it moving forward, knowing that they can bounce back from any lead and compete with anyone in the AAC. This win was a huge.