The Defense Evaluates and Compensates:
The USF defense had some issues early in the game, giving up 17 points in the first quarter. They weren’t helped by the offense very much in that first quarter, going 0-3 on third down, forcing the defensive unit to stay on the field for over 10 minutes.
The Syracuse offense highlighted their first quarter success with two deep strikes to the end zone, including a 47-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey to senior wide receiver Brisly Estime on a botched snap and blown USF coverage.
Not a single player in orange saw the end zone from that point on.
The Bulls’ defensive unit still surrendered a total of 549 yards, the most they’ve given up in a game this season; however, the secondary unit met their weekly team goal by taking the ball away three times. Two of those turnovers were in the second quarter, helping lead their team to a 28-0 point run for the Bulls before halftime.
The Bull Shark defense proved to be effective yet again, even in the face of a vaunted, pass happy, hurry-up offense.
Rodney Adams Keeps Defenses Questioning:
USF senior wide receiver Rodney Adams isn’t just a one-dimensional receiver for quarterback Quinton Flowers to look for down the field. Adams utilizes his speed and elusiveness to shake off defenders; he is a key piece of the Bulls’ offense that allows the versatility of the Gulf Coast offense to work.
The speedy wide receiver was used in the rushing attack four times on the jet sweep, tallying two touchdowns. Adams is still a favorite target of his junior quarterback; leading the team with four receptions for 67 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown catch.
Adams will continue to keep opposing defenses on edge knowing that wherever he is on the field, he can break away for a big gain.
The Offense Is Lightning Fast:
The USF offense has proven that they can strike at any moment on the field. The big play is a product of the Gulf Coast offense, with the Bulls scoring four of their five touchdown drives against Syracuse being completed in less than two minutes. In fact, the offense has scored 12 of their 18 touchdown drives in less than two minutes this season.
With junior running back Marlon Mack returning from a concussion that he sustained in the season opener, the triple threat of Flowers, Adams and Mack allows the Bulls to move down the field at such a quick pace.
During the Bulls’ week two matchup against Northern Illinois, the offense was without Mack and had to implement a different strategy that saw the lightning quick offense slow down ever so slightly with only two of their touchdown drives clocking in under two minutes, but all six of their touchdown drives were under four minutes.
The offense will look to keep this pace going as they go up against the Florida State and Cincinnati defenses in the upcoming weeks.
D'Ernest Johnson Is a Jack-Of-All-Trades:
Bulls’ junior running back/return specialist/change-of-pace quarterback D’Ernest Johnson showcased his dynamic skill sets during the week three bout against Syracuse.
Johnson busted through the Orange’s punt return lanes for an 83-yard punt return touchdown in the third quarter, putting USF up 42-20. Johnson also threw an accurate pass to junior wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling that stretched half the length of the field; ultimately resulting in an offensive pass interference by Valdes-Scantling. The running back even tallied a tackle on a kick return in the second quarter.
Johnson has quickly established himself as a pass-catching back, becoming a check down option for Flowers and able to stretch small plays for big gains. The versatile running back is the dynamic, wild card of the “Three Headed Monster” in the Bulls’ backfield, and everyone needs a wild card in their dynamic group.
Communication Is Key:
There was some definite miscommunication issues between Flowers and his receiving core against Syracuse. This is an issue that could have stemmed from playing on the road and in an enclosed environment.
While the Bulls won’t have to play in another enclosed stadium like the Carrier Dome this season, they still have to play in four more road games. Three of the away stadiums will have a capacity of 40,000 or more opposing fans that will be trying to loudly disrupt the offense.