Game Preview 2: USF at FSU

Already saddled with dealing with personal tragedy, South Florida will have the daunting task of trying to pull the upset at #11 Florida State.

Game 2: South Florida (1-0) at #11 Florida State (1-0)

When/Where: Saturday September 12th at 11:30 a.m. ET- Doak Campbell Stadium (Tallahassee, FL)

TV: ESPN

Radio: USF-IMG Network (820 AM)/www.GoUSFBulls.com

All-time series: Tied 1-1

Last meeting: 2012. FSU won 30-17 in Tampa.

Week 2 Storylines:

It has certainly been a week of mixed emotions for South Florida, going from the highest of highs to lowest of lows in a span of just a few hours. The Bulls kicked off the 2015 season last Saturday with a 51-3 thumping of Florida A&M, the most points USF has posted in a single game since 2011. Offensively, sophomore QB Quinton Flowers found a rhythm and displayed flashes of his potential to succeed down the road in Willie Taggart’s new up-tempo style of offense while the three headed running attack of Marlon Mack, D’Ernest Johnson, and Darius Tice each found the end zone. Defensively, the new 4-2-5 “Bull Shark” defense imposed their will upon the opposing Rattler offense. Sophomore LB Auggie Sanchez led the way with ten tackles while defensive tackle Bruce Hector emerged as a new disruptive on the front lines, racking up two sacks.

Despite the dominant performance, the week for South Florida was marked by the tragic death of former Bulls defensive tackle Elkino Watson, who was fatally stabbed outside of an Ybor City nightclub early Sunday morning following the USF victory.

Watson, a Miami native, played a significant portion of his four year career at USF, appearing in 45 games. He recorded 74 tackles (32.5 for losses) and six sacks throughout his career as a Bull and exemplified himself as a positive influence on his fellow teammates. Coach Taggart spoke on Watson on Wendesday. “Kino was a tremendous young man with a great smile and a big heart who was very much loved by our USF football family and will be sorely missed. Our hearts hurt for his daughter and his family. The thoughts and prayers of our team and our University are with the Watson family as they deal with this terrible loss.” USF Athletic Director Mark Harlan also spoke during Wednesday’s press conference on Watson. “We will work closely with Coach Taggart and his staff to provide our football team and all of our USF student-athletes with the support they need during this very difficult period.” The Bulls will wear a black “EW” sticker for Saturday’s road matchup as a tribute to their former teammate and inspiration to pull off the major upset.

The Opponent:

For USF players and fans, it goes without saying the magnitude of playing one of the “Big Three” programs in the state of Florida, especially when the recent history of said opponent includes numerous NFL draft picks, a Heisman trophy winner, and a BCS National Championship. Bulls fans still vividly remember this time in 2009 when Jim Leavitt’s was able to lead USF into Doak Campbell Stadium and secure a 17-7 victory. In 2015, that task will be even more arduous.

The Seminoles return the usual arsenal of top talent and weapons, but the most notable addition offensively is transfer graduate senior QB Everett Golson, who many know for his successful stint as the starting QB for Notre Dame, which included a trip to the 2013 BCS National title game. Despite being prone to committing an array of turnovers, Golson will serve as an adequate replacement for Jameis Winston within the Seminoles offense, showing the first glimpse of his abilities last week with a 302 yard, four touchdown performance vs. Texas State. Almost exactly mirroring fellow sophomore Marlon Mack stat-wise, running back Davin Cook is back to continue upon the success of his freshman season and do damage in year two. Cook accumulated 1,008 yards and two touchdowns during his freshman campaign and his 165 yard, two touchdown game last week indicates that he’s only getting warmed up.

Defensively, Charles Kelly’s unit looks to improve after taking a step back in terms of advanced pass defense stats in comparison to previous seasons. With a plethora of young talent steping into starting roles, the integral part of the Noles defense is the return of All-ACC defensive back Jalen Ramsey. 2014 saw the Smyrna, Tennessee native accumulate 79 tackles, 12 pass break ups, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions on the way to being named an All-American as a sophomore. His versatility and athletic ability in coverage and affecting all aspects of FSU’s defense if key to Florida State’s playoff aspirations and success throughout 2015.

Keys to Victory

Without any surprise, South Florida is listed as a 28 point underdog for Saturday morning’s contest. With heavy hearts, the Bulls must channel USF underdogs of seasons past and execute to near perfection in every aspect of the game. That will directly be tied to whether or not Tom Allen’s Bull Sharks can provide enough pressure to force Everett Golson to make mistakes while somehow, someway limiting Dalvin Cook and backup running back Mario Pender. Offensively, it goes without saying that Quinton Flowers must be able to efficiently move the up tempo offense down the field while limiting mistakes and not yielding easy turnovers to the talented Seminole secondary. If these things can be accomplished, Willie Taggart’s staff has a shot of making this in-state matchup really interesting in the second half. If not, it could be a long afternoon for the green and gold.


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