On October 2nd, the Bulls were 1-3 on the season. They were preparing to get ready for a game against Syracuse and I was prepared for a loss and the spiral to the bottom to begin. Yet, the Bulls did the opposite. Instead, they have gone on to win 7 of the next 8 games and have blown my expectations for the season out of the water.
At 1-3, I had doubts about the defense, the offense, and was not sure what would become. They turned it and have clinched a bowl berth. So let’s break down the offense and defense and show how far this team has come after I predicted them to go 5-7 on the year. I have never been so happy to be wrong in a prediction.
On October 2nd, the Bulls were averaging 24.8 PPG. They ran for 210 yards per game and had 6 rushing touchdowns. They averaged 166 yards per game through the air and had 7 passing touchdowns. Overall, they had 376.4 yards per game, struggling to find consistency passing the ball, but were able to run it. Fast forward to today. They are averaging 33.5 PPG. They average 242.9 yards per game on the ground and have 25 rushing touchdowns. They are now averaging 185.5 yards per game passing and have 24 passing touchdowns. Overall, USF is averaging 428.4 yards per game, scoring over 40 points the past few games, including the upset win over Temple at home and the 44 points hung on Central Florida to close out the regular season. As Quinton Flowers came of age, the passing game got going and the running lanes have emerged for not only him, but for Marlon Mack as well. Let’s take a quick look at how far the individuals have come on offense to see just what I mean and how their numbers have bolstered the overall offense of the Bulls.
Over a month ago, Marlon Mack had 73 carries for 392 yards and just 1 rushing touchdowns. He now has 193 carries for 1273 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. The eight 100 yards games, including a 200+ game performance in there, Mack has carried the rushing offense and has become the heart of the offense. But he is not alone as Quinton Flowers has take over and mastered this offense, getting better each week. A month ago, he was just 51 for 85 for 526 yards with 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He had 53 carries for 209 yards with 2 touchdowns. Flowers (or the playcalling) were not allowing him to thrown down the field, but they opened it during the season and the numbers improved. He is now 149 for 244 for 2013 yards with 21 passing touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He also has 175 carries for 883 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Flowers has been throwing more down the field and running more (was hurt against Navy and barely ran), showing maturation in the pocket. With his maturation has come more receiving yards for the top USF targets. On October 2nd, Rodney Adams had just 8 grabs for 45 yards and a score. He now has 39 receptions for 692 yards and 8 touchdowns (tied for most touchdowns in a single season). Sean Price had just 5 grabs for 92 yards. He is now up to 19 receptions for 296 yards with 5 touchdowns. Everyone is producing, the numbers are across the board, and the wins have followed. But while the offense has gone off, the defense has gotten better and continues to be strong all season.
While the offense has made great strides, the defense has gotten better as the year has gone on. On October 2nd, the Bulls were allowing 24 PPG, they are now allowing just 21 PPG. They were allowing 131 yards per game on the ground and had allowed 5 rushing touchdowns. They are allowing just 140.6 yards per game on the ground and 16 rushing touchdowns. This includes games against Navy that put up career numbers, so even with that factored in, the rushing defense has still been sound all season. A month ago, they were allowing 233.8 yards per game passing and 7 passing touchdowns. At this point, they are allowing just 220.6 yards per game through the air and have allowed just 13 passing touchdowns (just 6 passing touchdowns after 8 games, that’s incredible). Overall, they are allowing 361.2 yards per game, compared to 364.8 yards per game they were allowing back on the 2nd. Despite facing a ranked foe and the tough offense of Navy, the defense is doing better across the board.
As a unit, they had 31 TFL, 9 sacks, and 5 interceptions back on the 2nd. Now after 8 more games, they have 90 TFL, 32 sacks, and 10 interceptions. They have gotten after the passing, have gotten in the backfield and have come away with takeaways, led by their key players. Auggie Sanchez had 28 tackles and 2.5 TFL after 4 games. Now at the end of the year, he leads the team with 106 tackles and 8.5 TFL. Jaime Byrd had 27 tackles with 1.5 TFL and 1 interception early in the season. He now has 80 tackles with 10 TFL, 5 sacks, and 3 interceptions. The key players have stepped up and have led a great defensive unit that has become one of the best in the AAC.
This team has come so far throughout the season. They looked dead at 1-3 and I was prepared for the worst, but I am glad to be wrong. After years of seeing bad football on the field its finally become wrong. I will admit my hopes were down to begin this year, questioning everything about this team, but I am gladly eating my words today. Now, let’s go bowling!