Well, the Bulls were able to beat SMU in the final minute last night, winning 14 to 13. I’m note sure what to make of this game after so many downs and so few ups. USF won and they are now 4-6 (3-3) which is great, but this was one hell of a game for the fans and a lot of issues re-emerged in this one. The score indicates that the Bulls won, but in the end, it doesn’t feel like it.
What an odd and ugly game for the offense. To star the game, the Bulls came out running the ball on nearly every down. This was all planned by the coaching staff to take advantage of a weak run defense in SMU and a freshman quarterback in Quinton Flowers getting his first start in bad weather conditions. While I understood the game plan, the execution was bad and the lack of passing during the game was awful. The coaching staff seemed afraid to throw anything with Flowers and he never got into a rhythm until late in the first half. Why not allow him to throw a quick screen or a safe slant route to get him going? It didn’t seem like they wanted to risk anything which makes everyone wonder why they would start him if the passing game wasn’t a real option in their mind. Flowers was 9 for 15 for 106 yards overall, rushing the ball 4 times for 33 yards. Late in the 4th quarter when the Bulls had to rally late to win the game, the coaches went with Mike White, a better passer (at this point in their careers) to make the long throws and move the offense through the air. The ground game approach failed so they went to White. This is not the best option for trying to get a cohesive offense going. Why not just start White for the game? It didn’t make sense to me at all. White went 9 for 16 for 105 yards and threw two touchdowns, sparking the offensive comeback in the 4th quarter. The play calling and decisions at quarterback still have me really confused.
The ground game totaled 167 yards, not hitting the mark they wanted to. USF continued to stack the box and go for it on third and 4th down and were able to get those conversions but they couldn’t get the big runs to break free and score. Marlon Mack 17 rushing for 79 yards (1 catch for 19 yards). Darius Tice had 8 carries for 31 yards. D’Ernest Johnson had 5 carries for 13 yards. It was a somewhat effective run game, but without a passing threat throughout most of the game, they couldn’t get a score. Tack on the 4 chop blocking penalties, the negative yard on penalties once again made it hard to run the ball when the offense was facing such long yardage situations.
The receiving game was pretty quiet. Rodney Adams was out with a groin injury. Andre Davis had 6 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Mike McFarland had 3 catches for 44 yards. D’Ernest Johnson had 3 for 39 yards and a score as well. Not having Adams did hurt and there were some drops during the game. Again, it comes down to play calling and the overall calls of the offensive coaching staff in this game. They wanted to ground it out in this game and had to quickly look for something in the passing game late to save them in the 4th quarter.
It wasn’t a great night for the defense either. The short passing game hurt them throughout the game. Deion Sanders Jr., who had 5 catches for the entire game, had 7 catches. Everything was short (expect for the long pass in the first half to Der’rikk Thompson) and SMU was able to move the ball at times during the game. The defense did have 6 tackles for loss and just 257 yards overall, but on the 1 touchdown that SMU scored, the defense was out of position. Against one of the worst offenses in the country, they played decently enough but not the best. It didn’t help that the offense for USF forced them back on the field several times, including special teams too, but they had to do their job.
Reshard Cliett led the Bulls with 7 tackles. Nigel Harris had 6 tackles. Jamie Byrd had 5 tackles and Lamar Robbins had 5 tackles with 1 TFL. Again in this game the defensive line didn’t get a lot of pressure up front. Elkino Watson was suspended for the game, hurting their depth, but there was no pass rush. The short passing game of SMU had something to do with that, but overall, there wasn’t a lot of heat on Matt Davis during this game. The defense didn’t get run over, so that is something to be happy about. But they weren’t sharp at times and didn’t force any turnovers in this game. They have to get back to that and have to come up big with plays to help out the awful offense.
It was a not great day for special teams. Deion Sanders Jr. had several big returns against the Bulls during the game. Chris Dunkley muffed a kick off in the first half, allowing the Mustangs to get the ball back in the 2nd quarter and score before going into the 2nd half. In the 4th quarter, a punt hit Jalen Spencer but Chris Dunkley was able to cover it. Overall, the unit was sloppy and did nothing in this game to help the cause and the muff kick from Dunkley just added to the awful night for the Bulls. The coaches didn’t go for a field goal in the first half, not allowing Marvin Kloss to get a chance to kick the ball. Mattias Ciabatti had 5 punts and averaged 49 yards per kick, showing his strong late throughout the game. The coaches need to get after them this week and clean up the dropped balls that nearly cost the Bulls even more yardage.
Lot of questions here. What was the game plan for the passing game with Flowers? If he is the future and thought he would be the spark to lead the team, why was he benched in the 4th quarter for Mike White? You say he led the offense well, sparked and moved things, yet the stats and scoreless first half prove otherwise. The entire way the coaching staff has developed the offense (or lack thereof) and was shuffled quarterbacks around, its painful and very confusing to watch. On defense, they need more pressure. Coach Bresnahan and his staff have to figure out how to stop a spread offense and the short passing game. They haven’t all year and it doesn’t appear they will at all with Memphis and UCF coming up.
We won, hurrah? The Bulls are 4-6 (3-3) now, doubling last year’s win total. We should be excited, but this win just felt like a loss after how it all unfolded during the game. The offense is still lost, we don’t know who the quarterback is, and the defense still can’t stop a short 5-yard pass. Now they a week to prepare for Memphis on the road, another spread team that is much improved this year compared to the squad that beat USF last year. They better get to work this week if they want to hang around with the Tigers on Saturday.