Dennis Akers

Five Keys to a South Florida Victory over Navy (22)

Coming off of a tough conference loss to Temple, the Bulls will need to rebound back with a big win over Navy (22) to remain on top of the AAC’s East division.

Stop the Run

Stopping the run has been a consistent problem for the Bulls this season, and USF’s defense will have to step up this week, more than ever, if they want to beat a tough Navy team. The Bulls have the 100th ranked rush defense in the FBS, allowing opponents to carry the ball for over 206 yards per game, and in their two losses this season, they’ve given up an astounding 398.5 yards per game on the ground.

On the other side of the field, Navy’s triple-option offense has been a well-oiled machine up to this point, and their 293.2 rushing yards per game are good enough for 4th in the nation.

South Florida will likely lean on the leadership of junior linebacker, Auggie Sanchez, to keep their defense focused.

"Sticking to your assignments and playing great against them... if you don't gang tackle them, then you'll lose. This will probably be our most physical game all season,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez leads the Bull with 41 solo tackles this season.

Make Navy Throw the Ball

Forcing Navy to pass could be the best chance USF’s defense has to effectively stop Navy. Navy’s triple-option offense flourishes on the ground, where USF has had the most trouble on defense this year. If the Bulls can manage to slow down Navy’s backfield and make them throw the ball, USF’s talented secondary and high-speed offense will be in a much better position to control the game’s pace and run away from Navy in a shootout. If Navy can get their run game going, however, it’s going to be a long day for the Bulls defensive linemen.

Then look for Bulls’ quarterback, Quinton Flowers, to get the ball to his weapon out wide, Rodney Adams. Adams leads the Bulls with 34 receptions and 502 receiving yards, and is tied for the team lead with 4 receiving touchdowns. His blazing speed and great chemistry with the USF quarterback has proven tough for defenders to stop this season, and he’ll be looking to improve on his season with a big game this weekend.

Get Mack Back on Track

Marlon Mack and the 12th ranked South Florida rushing offense struggled moving the ball on the ground last week against Temple as the Bulls failed to eclipse 200 rushing yards for just the first time in 12 games. While Mack did break off a 30 yard touchdown run late in the game, he managed just 37 yards on his other 12 attempts.

Despite their running woes against Temple, the Bulls will look to take full advantage of a less-than-stellar Navy rush defense and have a productive bounce back this week. Getting the run game established early will also help open up the pass game in their stellar Gulf Coast offense against a Navy secondary that’s allowing 256 passing yards per game.

USF’s rushing attack is led by their “three-headed monster” in the backfield. The athletic trio consisting of quarterback, Quinton Flowers, and running backs Marlon Mack and D’Ernest Johnson, have combined for 1,725 of the team’s 2,044 rushing yards this season.

Keep the Offense on the Field

Navy holds on to the ball for over 32 minutes per game, loves to control the clock and runs the ball down their opponent’s throat, so USF will have to take advantage when they have the ball. Neither team turns the ball over very often, so the Bulls will need to capitalize and put points on the board every time Navy gives them a chance. This means scoring in the red zone. The Bulls come into the game 55th in the nation in red zone offense, so look for them to put an emphasis on getting the ball into the end zone when they reach the 20 yard line.

Third downs can also be a major turning point on both sides of the ball. USF has shown over and over again that it only takes one big play for them to find the end zone, so keeping those drives alive on third downs could really give them an edge.

USF converted on six of their 13 third downs last week and have converted on 45.2 percent of their third downs this season.

Limit Penalties

Penalties have killed the Bulls at times this year, and it’s necessary that they stay disciplined on Friday when they face the least penalized team in the nation. Navy enters the week conceding only 2.3 penalties for an average of 19.3 yards per game, less than a third of South Florida’s average of 60.4 yards. In what looks to be a close game, the Bulls can’t afford to give away any unearned yards or first downs.

Last week the Bulls committed 11 penalties for 88 yards.

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