But USF needed a win and more importantly than a win, USF needed confidence to finish this season strongly, improve its chances at a better bowl (Gator) and have the opportunity to record the school's first-ever 10-win season.
So before I ruin this positive winning karma let's get to the grades.
QUARTERBACK (B): Solid day for Matt Grothe and a great way to bounce back from last Saturday's disappointing loss. By just having 38 of the 84 offensive plays directly involve him, he was a much more effective passer (15-of-22) and an equally effect runner (14 carries, 73 yards, no negative plays). The interception obviously ruins a near perfect day but there was much more good than bad.
RUNNING BACKS (A): A 134-yard day for Mike Ford tells me that those excuses for not utilizing the running game more during the three-game losing streak were just that...excuses. Aston Samuels also had a 100 yards game on just two carries, he needed to have 103-yard and take that end around to the house rather than getting tripped up on the 3-yard line. But very little can take away from 346 rushing yards and two players not named Grothe earning 100-yard games.
WIDE RECEIVERS (B): Taurus Johnson's return to the lineup gave this unit a big boost and even though the overall numbers weren't spectacular there was strong effort in running routes and downfield blocking. Carlton Mitchell caught another touchdown pass on a terrific double-fake call that left him wide open in the middle of the field.
OFFENSIVE LINE (A-): Yielded just two tackles for loss and no sacks. A stellar day for a unit that needed to re-establish itself again. Only the abnormal amount of penalties takes this grade down from a solid 'A'.
OFFENSIVE COACHING (A): Whaddya know, more of the running backs and less of the quarterback does work! And the team wins! Congratulations to Coach Greg Gregory for going back to the formula that helped the team get off to a 6-0 start. Remember the old saying -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The double-fake that led to the touchdown pass to Mitchell was beautifully executed and the end arounds to Samuels were great calls.
DEFENSIVE LINE (B+): George Selvie notches another sack and adds three more tackles for losses. Holding Syracuse to 15 yards rushing has just as much to do with the middle of the line and another great game by Richard Clebert to control the middle. The pass rush wasn't always consistent, but that's picking nits. Nice interception Allen Cray!
LINEBACKERS (B): Tyrone McKenzie has been in the top three for team tackles over the last six weeks even outplaying Ben Moffitt some of the time. Moffitt wasn't to be outdone as he added a tackle for a loss too. A lot of the reserves got extra playing time on Saturday so the guys should be well rested going into Louisville.
SECONDARY (B-): Not the best day for the secondary as they were lacksadaisical at times and paid for it. Nate Allen continues to be a tackling machine and both Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins kept most of the action in front of them. Jerome Murphy also recorded an interception. Overall not great, not bad but good enough to get the job done.
SPECIAL TEAMS (B): The fumble recovery on the opening kickoff led to a touchdown and an instant momentum grab. Delbert Alvarado had some booming punts in the controlled environment at the Carrier Dome and added two field goals. The return game didn't yield again and coverage was a little shaky at times, but nothing too bad.
DEFENSIVE COACHING (B+): Solid game called by Coach Burnham and his staff. The USF defense pretty much dominated this game from start to finish and gave the offense plenty of time to drive the ball down the field.
USFNation.com - Get it First, Get it Fast!