I’m going to preface this piece with some information that is going to detail what this new, weekly column will contain and what you as the reader can expect to take away from it each week.
I have now been with Bulls Daily for about a month now, covering the first four weeks of the college football season, attending press conferences and practices; giving you the information and details of each bit of news that comes out of USF.
While I will continue to provide you with information and disseminate the data into in-depth analysis, my new column will give my own opinions. I will cover what worked for the Bulls’ and where they need to improve after games; players that stand out and how they should prepare for their next game. With that said, lets dive in.
The Bulls swung and missed on their biggest opportunity to make an impact on a national scale this year when they lost to FSU on Saturday. The defense didn’t complete their tackles and let Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook run all over the field for 267 yards and two touchdowns; one more yard than he gained last season when the Bulls visited Tallahassee.
In fact Cook’s two appearances against USF will forever show up in FSU’s program record books as number two and three for rushing yards in a single game.
The defense preached all week building up to the game that they needed to stop Cook, wrap on tackles, turn the ball over and give their offense more opportunities to score than they did in last season’s game. From the very first play of the game it appeared as if USF was going to make the Seminoles work for a win in Raymond James Stadium when Quinton Flowers connected with Rodney Adams for an 84-yard touchdown.
From that point on the Bulls were utterly useless through the air only completing four more passes for 76 yards.
I still think that we can chalk up the poor defensive showing to being over matched by a superior team. There was a chance that USF could have matched up with the Seminoles more favorably, but it was just a repeat of last year’s performance; not enough offense and an ineffective defense.
Flowers only completed five of 14 pass attempts, not connecting on vital short yardage passes and lobbing the ball into the hands of the FSU defensive backs twice. This is a product of the ‘Gulf Coast’ system when it is not properly executed.
The crucial element of the West Coast offense is a quarterback’s timing with his receivers and that is no different in the ‘Gulf Coast’ offense. Both of the interceptions came on deep passes that were in tight coverage; the second being a pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was in double coverage and resulted in a FSU touchdown.
The problem that Flowers suffered from during the game was not one of accuracy, his shots down the field were accurate; however a combination of defensive pressure from a secondary that had an overall height advantage and a lack of opportunities to break up the monotonous combination of rushing the ball and deep passes.
Some of those throws showed bad decision making on Flowers’ part and the only relief he had was on small check down plays to running backs D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice.
Flowers needs to be able to utilize both the short and medium field as well to keep defenses questioning his actions. Implementing slant routes with speedy receiver Adams and slot receiver Chris Barr in the middle of the field would help Flowers’ decision making be less predictable for future defenses.
In fact, Flowers only looked his biggest targets, 6-foot-5 256 pound tight end Elkanah Dillon and 6-foot-4 248 pound tight end Mitchell Wilcox, for a combined total of one attempt. The one attempt did end in a 52-yard connection to Wilcox, but just shows again that Flowers was really looking for the deep pass.
If there is a positive note to take from Flowers’ play during the game, it was his ability to stretch the play with his legs later in the game. Flowers rushed for a total of 192 yards on 18 attempts; 126 of those yards were on eight attempts in the second half. Most of these yards were gained after the Seminoles had already taken a decisive lead and Tice had been ruled out for the rest of the game with a broken ankle.
Some of the gains were from designed runs, but for the most part they were on the field decisions Flowers made when the pocket would collapse on him. Up to this point in the season, Flowers had not used his legs as a weapon and this game may have brought back the athletic quarterback that we remember from last season.
The Bulls are most likely not going to change their game plan just because of one bad outing, and they shouldn’t. These are the schemes and plays that the team has been successful with since last season, attempting to perfect them in the offseason and has undoubtedly been effective throughout the current season. The fact of the matter is that the Bulls still have a high-scoring offense and a defense that has been successful in keeping opposing defenses out of the end zone up until this point.
The defense’s problems stemmed from technique poor and reading of plays, both of which can be remedied during the week with practice on the field and studying in the film room. Taggart has stated that he knows the defense can succeed, but that the players need to perform at their highest level against a team like FSU and that he expects them to play at that level despite the opponent, something that we would all like to see.
Now it’s on to conference play and the Bulls will have to mentally block out last week’s loss as they travel to Cincinnati this week. The Bearcats were picked to come in just behind the Bulls in the AAC East and are looking to prove that last year’s 65-27 loss to the Bulls was a fluke.
USF’s quick strike offense has proven that their last meeting with Cincy was legit, but will have to make sure that they keep possession of the ball seeing that the Bearcats leads the nation in interceptions with 10 on the year.