Dennis Akers

Here Are Five Things We Learned From South Florida's Triumph Over Northern Illinois

USF tackled their first FBS opponent of the season, fine tuning any issues that may have come up in the season opener. A dominant display of force on both sides of the ball proved that this young Bulls’ team has the experience and talent it needs to bump up with the big dogs.

Flowers Is Getting Into Midseason Groove

Quinton Flowers was on point in the Bulls’ victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday, as the quarterback threw for a career high 350 yards and four touchdowns. Flowers wasn’t afraid to throw the long ball against a Huskies defense that couldn’t contain the high-scoring “Gulf Coast” offense. 

Flowers showed flashes of brilliance as he completed 21-of-33 passes, including a 73-yard bomb to junior wide receiver Ryeshene Bronson, that saw Bronson break away for the touchdown. The quarterback wasn’t shy about spreading the ball around either, as four different receivers recorded a touchdown from Flowers. 

With his mobility being a main feature of his game, Flowers tended to stay in the pocket in an attempt to connect with his receivers, but was still able to pick up 53 yards on some designed run plays. Prepare to see more of Flowers’ running ability in week 3 as the Bulls travel to Syracuse, a team that was burned by Louisville sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson for 199 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

The Receiving Core Has Flowers' Trust

350 receiving yards. Nine different receivers. This receiving squad is deep and has quickly picked up the trust of the quarterback, an important aspect of the “Gulf Coast” offense. The quarterback needs to be able to trust the receivers’ pace and ability to get down the field for deep strikes. 

With big bodied receivers like Bronson and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Flowers is able to fully utilize the offensive scheme, as the two receivers can stretch the field vertically. Speedy senior Rodney Adams uses his skills to effectively shift an opposing defense from one side of the field to the other; and running back D’Ernest Johnson has proved to be a reliable check down back who can turn a small pass into a big gain in open space.

With the Bulls’ receiving core able to make the big plays, the team will see more teams stick their defensive backs tight onto the receivers and potentially more blitzing packages on the edges, allowing Flowers to exploit the holes that will be left open.

The Defensive Backs Are Still as Good as They Were in 2015 

Four of the starting five defensive backs have returned this season and they are smothering the opposing receivers. While they may not be pulling in the interceptions like they did last season, with only one in their first two games, they are holding opposing quarterbacks to a combined 326 passing yards. Not only has the secondary held opposing quarterbacks to a low combined passing total, they haven’t let the starting quarterbacks from either team throw a touchdown pass. Keep this in mind as well, the defensive backs have limited opposing receivers on big play potential, only allowing two receptions longer than 20 yards, neither of which resulting in a touchdown.

Expect to see the secondary suffocate the Syracuse receivers, frustrating sophomore quarterback Eric Dungy who was only able to pick up 255 yards on 51 attempts this past week against Louisville. While Dungy did toss three touchdowns in that game, that is more likely a result of new Syracuse coach Dino Babers’ new hurry-up offense.

Look to see the secondary stay true to what they’ve done to this point; stick with fundamentals, reroute receivers and limit opportunities.

The "Three Headed Monster" Is Alive and Well

First team all-conference running back Marlon Mack was not available for the game against NIU after a concussion sidelined him the previous week. While the loss of two time 1000-yard running back is felt around the whole team, the next guy, or guys, were ready to step up.

Senior running back Darius Tice was slashed the Husky defense for 121 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, proving once again that he has the talent to be the bell-cow back for a team. Junior D’Ernest Johnson also made his presence known as he racked up 91 yards on the ground and 33 yards with a touchdown through the air.

While it appears that we should expect Mack back on the field in Carrier Dome this week, the “Three Headed Monster” has proven that if one of the heads should get knocked out, then the other two become even more dangerous.

 Auggie Sanchez

We haven’t learned anything new about the junior defensive captain, but what we do know is that the man is the immovable object that other teams try find a way to exploit with what they assume is an unstoppable force.

Sanchez was able to help keep the Towson Tigers’ prolific running back in check at only 70 yards on 23 attempts, while Sanchez tallied seven total tackles. Sanchez followed his first week up with 13 total tackles and recording his first sack of the season.

Sanchez’s prowess on the field proves that he has rightfully earned the captain’s patch that sits on his chest. You can be sure that the work ethic that Sanchez put into his craft on and off the field doesn’t go unnoticed by his teammates and coaches, as he sets the pace for this “Bull Shark” defense, which will be needed in the coming weeks as the Bulls’ face off against AAC opponents, including the Florida State Seminoles and their early Heisman Trophy candidate, running back Dalvin Cook.

If Sanchez continues on this pace, you can guarantee that he’ll match or surpass his 117 tackle total from 2015.


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