The South Florida (2-3, 0-1) rushing attack put up 276-yards as it paced the Bulls to a 45-24 victory over the Syracuse Orange (3-2, 1-0) on Saturday. Coming off of a bye week, Syracuse looked rusty on both sides of the ball throughout the entire first half. A late special teams gaffe gave USF a field goal to end the half rather than giving the Orange an opportunity to take a lead into the locker room.
Brisly Estime had called a fair catch on a USF punt with a little less than two minutes left in the second quarter. True freshman Kielan Whitner was blocking and got too close to where Estime was waiting to catch the punt. The ball bounced off of Whitner and South Florida jumped onto the ball, leading to the scoring chance.
That sequence was a microcosm of what went wrong at Raymond James Stadium. Self inflicted wounds and a lack of execution. Syracuse's strong rush defense was nowhere to be found in this one. They missed tackles, took poor angles and were beat the point of attack.
A key heading into this one was who would win in the trenches. South Florida did on both sides of the ball, frequently getting penetration on Syracuse's offensive line. That penetration thwarted the Orange run game and put pressure on Dungey all afternoon.
In the second half, South Florida's ground game really got going, as Marlon Mack capped off an opening drive with a 25-yard scoring scamper. When quarterback Quinton Flowers hit Ryeshene Bronson on a 42-yard flee flicker touchdown pass, the Bulls opened up a 24-3 lead and seemed poised to blow the Orange out.
Syracuse responded, however, with two quick touchdowns to cut the lead to just seven. Jordan Fredericks spun, cut and eluded tacklers on his way to a 30-yard scoring reception. The defense quickly forced a turnover on a strip sack of Flowers. Eric Dungey ran it in from seven yards out on the next possession.
But the Bulls had a response of their own, as Mack scored again, this time from 40-yards out. Dungey hit Steve Ishmael early in the fourth to cut the lead to seven once again, and then Syracuse fell apart.
Once again, a gaffe by Whitner cost Syracuse. After a 3rd and long pass was thrown incomplete, Whitner bumped into a South Florida receiver after the play, and was assessed a late hit penalty, giving the Bulls a first down. They scored a few plays later, and the Orange turned it over twice more to seal the win.
Syracuse struggled on the perimeter all game. Not only with runs but with bubble screens, which gashed the Orange defense routinely.
Syracuse managed only 73-yards rushing on the day, more than 200 yards fewer than their couinterparts. Dungey finished 21-34 for 232 yards and two scores with one interception and one lossed fumble. Ervin Philips had 96 total yards in his return from a week one injury.
After struggling to run the ball consistently in the first half, they opened things up in the air in the second half and had much more success. The offensive line, however, struggled to protect Dungey as he was sacked, hit or hurried frequently.
With a 3-1 start in the rearview mirror, the loss was a dissapointment for the Orange who had built a lot of monentum after a strong performance againt LSU. They hit the road again next week to face a struggling Virginia squad.