USFNation Game Grades: Cincinnati

After the Bulls thrilling 38-30 win over the Bearcats, the USFNation staff takes a look at how each unit stacked up against the defending Big East Champions. Find out how we graded each position from the Bulls 38-30 win over the Bearcats.

QUARTERBACK: B.J. Daniels has taken a lot of heat in recent weeks for his poor play, but just when it looked like he couldn't get any worse he goes out and totally redeems himself. Daniels played spectacular in this game and easily turned in his best performance of the season. He looked comfortable and confident running the offense. Aside from a couple of miscues, he was almost perfect completing 13-16 passes for 286 yards and 2 TDs. He also added 2 TDs on the ground. He was accurate in the intermediate, short and deep passing game. With a bye week coming up, hopefully Daniels can continue to increase his comfort level in this offense. GRADE: A

RUNNING BACKS: If you are going to judge the running backs on just their running numbers then on paper this did not look like a good performance for the Bulls' backs. However, you must take into account their full body of work. The RBs faced constant 8 and 9 man fronts which led to the poor rushing numbers however their ability to block in the passing game facing those same fronts was nothing short of impressive. Demetrius Murray had a standout performance in that respect. He was active in pass protection and made several key blocks that led to touchdowns. He also did catch a 39-yard pass that set up a touchdown. GRADE: B-

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: The receivers stepped up in a big way. On USF's first offensive possession, BJ Daniels threw a pass intended for Evan Landi, which was almost intercepted, and Landi fought off the defender for the ball rendering it incomplete. This is type of play we have not seen in recent weeks where the receivers are actually fighting for the ball. Outside of that, receivers were doing a good job of getting open and only had one dropped pass, and Dontavia Bogan and Faron Hornes showed their big play ability. The receivers accounted for 233 of Daniels's 286 passing yards with 14 yards going to H-Back Kevin Gidrey and 38 yards going to RB Demetrius Murray. Grade: B+

OFFENSIVE LINE: The offensive line seemed to have a mixed performance because they blocked extremely well in the passing game but struggled to deal with the 8 and 9 man fronts Cincinnati flashed against the running game. It is difficult for any offensive line to get a push against such fronts and as a result the running game struggled. With any offense facing stacked boxes, the Bulls passed and passed deep and the offensive line did a great job of keeping the Cincinnati defenders off of B.J. Daniels as he connected with long passing plays of 70, 64, 39 and 31 yards. If teams start to respect USF's passing game a bit more, the offensive line should see less 8-9 man fronts and as a result the running game will improve. Grade: B+

OFFENSIVE COACHING: The offensive play-calling was a far cry from week's prior. Todd Fitch and the rest of the offensive staff did a good job of preparing the guys for this game. Fitch in particular kept the defense guessing with a great mix of play calls ranging from screens, end-arounds, option, read-option, and play action passes. The Bulls scored their highest amount of points against a 1-A school this season with 38 points. This type of effort gives the Bulls something to build upon as they enter their bye week. Grade: A

DEFENSIVE LINE: The defensive line played very well for the most part. They were instrumental in shutting down Isaiah Pead who came into the game averaging roughly 8 ypc. They also did a very good job of containing Zach Collaros from breaking any game-changing runs like he did the previous year. The pass rush was solid and kept Collaros uncomfortable for a good portion of the night, as DE Ryne Giddins lived in the backfield, and Terrell McClain applied great pressure, but they did leave quite a few sacks on the field, and with that extra time, Collaros was able to burn the Bulls' secondary with big third down and fourth down conversions. Grade: B

LINEBACKERS: The linebackers also had an admirable performance. They flashed their great lateral speed by shutting down Cincinnati's east-west running game. They were very active upfront and were able to break through Cincinnati's offensive line often. They were exposed a bit in the passing game because they were filling hard on the running game and Collaros was able to float a few passes between them and the safeties. Jaquian Williams, Sabbath Joseph, and Sam Barrington came up big, and overall it was a good effort from the unit, and one that has been a bright spot all season. Grade: B

SECONDARY: When you give up close to 500 yards passing, there's not much of chance to earn a high grade. Senior corner Mistral Raymond played very well, and was very active, breaking up several passes and got his first interception of the season, and could have had more. As good as Raymond was, Quenton Washington and Kayvon Webster did not equal the effort. Quenton Washington was torched early and often. Cincinnati keyed in on that as Washington gave up several long passes and touchdowns. On first and second down the Bulls secondary played well enough, but gave up 9 third-down and 1 fourth-down conversions for 252 yards through the air. The unit needs to take a deep look at itself and see what they can improve on, because they cannot continue to get burned on the passes they did. Grade: D-

DEFENSIVE COACHING: The run defense was exceptional and the pass defense was not. We employed a bend but don't break philosophy giving up everything underneath and trying to avoid the big pass over top however when you miss tackles on underneath routes and the WR's gain big yards after catch, it kind of defeats the purpose. Not to mention leaving Quenton Washington on an island with Armon Binns was a terrible idea. Cincinnati picked on Washington as much as they could and were very successful at it. However, in the red zone, USF's defense tightened up and held the Bearcats to field goals in possession that could have easily been touchdowns. The bright spot is that USF has now faced the two toughest passing offenses they will see in the Big East and in that respect it will get easier. The Pittsburgh game will be a big challenge. Grade: C

SPECIAL TEAMS: Maikon Bonani made all of his FG and PAT attempts, and that's a good thing. The punting game was decent but it could have been better. The kickoff coverage was solid overall as was the punt coverage. USF did not break any great returns one way or the other but it was a solid performance all around outside of Lindsay Lamar's two fumbles on kickoffs. Even though they were not turnovers they really reduced the amount of yards that USF could have gotten. I expect the coaching staff to focus on ball security during the bye week. Grade: B-

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