As twenty-eight point underdogs heading into Saturday’s matchup at #11 Florida State (2-0), South Florida (1-1) stood toe to toe for two and a half quarters with Jimbo Fisher’s immensely talented roster before ultimately falling to the Seminoles 34-14. The game was played in front of an announced crowd of 72,811 people on a rainy afternoon in Doak Campbell Stadium.
The entire contest was highlighted by the superb play of FSU running back Dalvin Cook, who’s already well on his way to another 1,000 yard season. The sophomore feature back set the tone early, breaking free for a 74 yard touchdown run in the middle of the first quarter to give the Noles a 7-0 lead early on. A pair of second half touchdowns and several broken tackles later, Cook would finish the day with 266 yards on 30 carries and 3 TD’s in an all-around impressive performance. “When you’re playing against a guy like Cook, you’ve got to get the whole team to wrap him up,” head coach Willie Taggart said after the loss. “We didn’t do a good job of wrapping him up and allowed him to get too many yards.”
In spite of Cook’s big day, Tom Allen’s Bull Shark defense showed promise throughout the first half, forcing pressure and limiting the Seminole offense on their way to a 7-7 tie heading into halftime. The Bulls defense was able to throttle Florida State’s young, inexperienced offensive line early on, as James Hamilton, Daniel Awoleke, and Mike Love each recorded a sack on quarterback Everett Golson. The graduate senior QB only threw for six total passing yards in the first half as FSU was held to only 110 total yards going into the locker room.
However, as was the case for the Noles in 2014, Jimbo Fisher’s second half adjustments proved too much for the Bulls to keep track with. Florida State opened the half with one of the aforementioned Cook touchdowns and never looked back. The turning point came late in the third quarter when Bull linebacker Auggie Sanchez was penalized and ejected for targeting, turning an FSU third-and-twelve on their own thirty-four scenario into a fresh set of downs. “That really shifted the momentum back to their side,” Taggart said afterwards. “That was critical in the ballgame.”
Offensively, quarterback Quinton Flowers managed to limit mistakes, but could not provide enough through the air to get things rolling for the USF offense throughout the game. A pair of touchdown passes to freshman Chris Barr and sophomore running back D’Ernest Johnson were the only source of points for the Bulls offense throughout the game. Marlon Mack rushed for 83 yards on 18 attempts on the day, but the effort simply couldn’t match his garnet and gold counterpart in Dalvin Cook.
Despite not being able to pull off the road upset, which would have been their second victory over the Seminoles in Tallahassee, the fact that the Bulls kept things and close and interesting for a majority of the contest is something that Willie Taggart will definitely carry as an important takeaway for his ball club. They will look to carry these next week when they head back on the road next Saturday in College Park for a date with Maryland.