CFN Take: USF Bombed By Cincinnati
2014 South Florida Bulls ... Head Coach: Willie Taggart
2014 USF Bulls
Oct. 24 at Cincinnati 34, South Florida 17
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 30 West Carolina W 36-31
Sep. 6 Maryland L 24-17
Sep. 13 NC State L 49-17
Sep. 19 Connecticut W 17-14
Sep. 27 at Wisconsin L 27-10
Oct. 4 OPEN DATE
Oct. 11 East Carolina L 28-17
Oct. 18 at Tulsa W 38-30
Oct. 24 at Cincinnati L 34-17
Nov. 1 Houston
Nov. 8 OPEN DATE
Nov. 15 at SMU
Nov. 22 at Memphis
Nov. 28 UCF
And You Care Because … Before getting knocked out of the game with hurt ribs, Gunner Kiel threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Holton and ran for a 17-yard touchdown as Cincinnati got up 27-3. In for Kiel, Munchie Legaux ran for a nine-yard score, and Andrew Gantz helped the cause with two field goals. USF switched up quarterbacks in the fourth and got a Seven Bench 67-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Adams and a 38-yarder to Andre Davis, but the Bearcats stayed ahead on a seven-yard Mike Boone run.
What Else? Turnovers: USF 4 – Cincinnati 3
- Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel completed 13-of-22 passes for 196 yards and a score, and ran five times for 20 yards and a touchdown. Munchie Legaux stepped in and completed 14-of-15 passes for 121 yards, and ran six times for six yards and a score.
- USF QB Steven Bench completed 9-of-14 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and Mike White completed 11-of-19 passes for 92 yards and two picks
- Cincinnati RB Mike Boone ran 19 times for 212 yards and a touchdown, and WR Shaq Washington caught 12 passes for 163 yards
Game Rating: C-
Oct. 18 South Florida 38, at Tulsa 30
And You Care Because … Down 30-14 midway through the third quarter, USF scored 24 unanswered points on three Mike White touchdown passes to Andre Davis on plays from 15, 15 and 85 yards out, and put the game away on a 28-yard Marvin Kloss field goal. Tulsa seemed to have control of the game with a Austin McDaniel pick six, an 18-yard touchdown run from Bishop Louie and an eight-yard Keevan Lucas scoring grab, but penalties and stalled drives turned the game around. Carl Salazar’s third field goal was Tulsa’s only second half score.
What Else? Tulsa QB Dane Evans completed 22-of-34 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown
- Penalties: Tulsa 11 for 114 yards – South Florida 7 for 77 yards
- USF QB Mike White completed 17-of-26 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns with an interception
- USF WR Andre Davis caught six passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns, and Marlon Mack ran 19 times for 130 yards and two scores
Game Rating: A-
Oct. 11 East Carolina 28, at USF 17
And You Care Because … The Pirates overcame a sluggish start to roar back in the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points with Marquez Grayson and Breon Allen each running for touchdowns and Anthony Scott putting the game away on a 20-yard dash. USF got up on a 51-yard Andre Davis touchdown catch in the first, and a 13-yard Marlon Mack run in the second, but Shane Carden found Breon Allen for a 35-yard score to stay alive going into the locker room. Then the offense woke up.
What Else? Penalties: East Carolina 12 for 148 yards – USF 8 for 59 yards
- East Carolina QB Shane Carden completed 24-of-33 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown with an interception
- East Carolina WR Justin Hardy caught ten passes for 114 yards
- USF QB Mike White completed 21-of-41 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown with an interception
Game Rating: B-
Sept. 27 at Wisconsin 27, South Florida 10
And You Care Because … It took a little while to get rolling, but Wisconsin broke through a 3-3 halftime score with Melvin Gordon touchdown runs from seven and 43 yards out for the lead and all the points needed. However, South Florida made it interesting with a 26-yard Rodney Adams touchdown dash and a big pass play deep into Badger territory to Kennard Swanson, but he took a big shot, fumbled, and the Wisconsin offense took over. An 18-play, 93-yard drive killed 9:33 off the clock, finishing up with a Tanner McEvoy touchdown pass to Sam Arneson to finish off the Bulls.
What Else? Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon ran 32 times for 181 yards and two scores
- South Florida QB Mike White completed 8-of-19 passes for 173 yards with a pick
- Time of possession: Wisconsin 40:51 – USF 19:09
- Penalties: USF 11 for 90 yards – Wisconsin 4 for 35 yards
Game Rating: B-
Sept. 19 at South Florida 17, Connecticut 14
And You Care Because … In the rain, the South Florida defense held Connecticut to just 132 yards of total offense. The Bull offense got up 14-0 in the first quarter taking a Husky turnover for a one-yard Marlon Mack touchdown run and a 30-yard Rodney Adams scoring play. UConn needed the D to get on the board, getting a 70-yard pick six from Byron Jones late in the first half. Down ten, UConn went on its best drive of the night late in the game, scoring on a 32-yard catch from Geremy Davis, but USF got the onside kick.
What Else? USF RB Marlon Mack ran 31 times for 103 yards and a score, and caught a pass for ten yards.
- UConn ran 27 times for 44 yards. QB Chandler Whitmer completed 6-of-9 passes for 88 yards and a score.
- Time of Possession: South Florida 39:02 – UConn 20:58
- Third Down Conversions: South Florida 7-of-16 – UConn 0-for-9
Game Rating: C-
Sept. 13 NC State 49, at South Florida 17
And You Care Because … NC State’s offense exploded, and the defense came up with three takeaways, in the easy blowout. The Wolfpack to up 49-7 with Bra’Lon Cherry scoring three touchdowns from 17, 17 and three yards out, and Matt Dayes taking off for a 34-yard touchdown. USF tied the score at seven on a 75-yard Ryeshene Bronson touchdown catch, but didn’t get back on the board until the final minutes, getting the only other touchdown on a 46-yard pick six from Lamar Robbins with 46 seconds to play.
What Else? NC State WR Bra’Lon Cherry caught three passes for 50 yards and a score, and ran twice for 20 yards and two touchdowns.
- Other than the 75-yard Ryeshene Bronson touchdown catch, USF managed just 84 yards of total offense.
- NC State QB Jacoby Brissett completed 20-of-29 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns.
- USF quarterbacks combined to complete 5-of-20 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown with two picks.
Game Rating: D+
Sept. 6 Maryland 24, at South Florida 17
And You Care Because … An error-prone Maryland overcame six turnovers with two C.J. Brown to Marcus Leak touchdown passes from ten and 44 yards out, and Avery Thompson turned things around with a blocked punt for a score in the fourth. USF held a 17-14 lead after returning a fumble for a score and getting a 15-yard Steven Bench touchdown run and a 35-yard Marvin Kloss field goal, but the O failed to score in the second half. Maryland scored ten unanswered points.
What Else? Maryland couldn’t stop screwing up with four fumbles and two picks. The defense held tough in the second half.
- USF QB Mike White went out of the game on the first drive. Steven Bench completed 14-of-36 passes for 162 yards and a pick.
- Stefon Diggs caught seven passes for 50 yards for the Terps, but Marcus Leak led the way with three catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
- Neither team could run the ball. Maryland loaded up and dared USF to pass, allowing just 83 yards and 2.2 yards per carry. The Terps ran for 116 yards averaging 2.9 yards a pop.
Game Rating: C+
Aug. 30 at South Florida 36, Western Carolina 31
And You Care Because … It took a while to get started after a weather delay, and it took USF a little bit to get going. However, Marlon Mack did his part after getting warmed up, tearing off touchdown runs from 62, 60, three and 56 yards away finishing with 275 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries, but it was a fight. Western Carolina wouldn’t go away as Troy Mitchell completed 46-of-66 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns, but Mack’s 56-yarder put the game away with under five minutes to play. The USF passing game struggled with Mike White hitting just 9-of-26 passes for 181 yards and a pick.
Game Rating: B
It’s official. Jim Leavitt is sorely missed in Tampa.
Leavitt was the father of South Florida football, guiding the program from infancy in 1997 to national relevance a decade later. He won 95 games at the school and he took it to five straight bowl games. But Leavitt was fired in January of 2010 following allegations he’d struck a player the previous fall. The Bulls haven’t been the same since.
USF has seen a decline in wins in each of the last three seasons, two with Skip Holtz in charge and the latest under the command of Willie Taggart. Rising stars not long ago, the Bulls are 10-26 overall and 4-8 in conference games since 2011. Now that the school has lost all of the traction it had when Leavitt was on campus, it’s up to Taggart to engineer a rebound.
Taggart talked in his first preseason about being the driver of the Bulls’ bus. In 2013, that vehicle veered off the road and into a ditch. South Florida opened the year with a 53-21 home loss to FCS McNeese State, the first of many low-points in the worst season in school history. The Bulls went 2-10, averaged 13.8 points per game and didn’t win after Oct. 12. It was the kind of train wreck that’ll make 2014 particularly important for the coach, his staff and the entire program.
Although a lack of sure-fire talent, especially on offense, will still dog the Bulls for the foreseeable future, fresh faces on the staff and in the locker room provide a glimmer of hope that better days are ahead at Raymond James Stadium.
Despite South Florida’s recent struggles on the field, Taggart roped in the American’s top recruiting class in February, adding depth and elite talent to both sides of the ball. And there’s cautious optimism that new coordinator Paul Wulff can finally get the offense pointed in the right direction.
The energetic Taggart can coach and motivate. And he’s going to win in Tampa, much the way he did at Western Kentucky. Patience, though, needs to be exercised for a team that has lost its way in recent years. Now that South Florida is improving the talent pool, it’ll be up to the staff to get those young kids ready to compete in the fall. By late August, there’s a good chance that the first depth chart of 2014 features more underclassmen than upperclassmen.
What to watch for on offense: A bigger and more physical O-line. The Bulls must improve everywhere on offense, but it’s going to help if the front wall can move a pile and hold its blocks. South Florida not only returns five starting linemen, but the unit has grown from an average of 290 pounds to 310 pounds under the direction of strength coach Hans Straub, who was fired May 13 for a derogatory tweet about a former Bull player. For Taggart’s run-oriented system to turn things around, the O-line has to do a better job for whichever back winds up replacing Marcus Shaw.
What to watch for on defense: Scurrying for pass rushers. The Bulls posted just 22 sacks a year ago to rank 80th nationally. And now the program is in the market for defensive ends after Aaron Lynch left school early and Tevin Mims and Ryne Giddins graduated. Holdovers Eric Lee, Daniel Perry and Mike Love combined for zero tackles in 2013, which means JUCO transfers Eric Mayes and Demetrius Hill will get every opportunity to win a job this offseason. Yeah, South Florida is promising in the secondary, but the defensive backfield needs more help up front.
The team will be far better if… the offense becomes markedly more potent, especially on third downs. South Florida converted just 28% of third-down tries in 2013 to rank last in the American and 122nd nationally. The Bulls need to take a quantum leap with the ball, extending drives in order to give more breaks to the defense. If USF continues to labor in its offensive execution, the end result won’t be any different than a season ago.
The Schedule: Is this when things start to change around for the Bulls? Starting out against Western Carolina is a true scrimmage, and it needs to be with no real breaks the rest of the way. Maryland and NC State have to come to Tampa in early September – it needs to be hot to take full advantage of the home field – and the American schedule kicks off against UConn on a Friday night. And then it gets rough with a trip to Wisconsin and a home oasis against a good East Carolina team. Three of the four games in the middle of the season are on the road, and there’s a rough stretch of five of the last seven away from Raymond James before closing out against UCF six games after going to Memphis.
Best offensive player: Senior WR Andre Davis. Davis isn’t just a playmaker—he’s the only playmaker on the Bulls, which averaged 4.3 yards per play in 2013. He’s the one guy in green and gold who gives opposing defensive coordinators a reason to revisit the gameplan. Davis has the size and the speed to spread the field, opening up his teammates on short and underneath routes. Whether it’s Mike White or Steven Bench, USF must get tighter play from its quarterbacks. Davis is explosive enough to elevate the play of those around him.
Best defensive player: Senior LB Reshard Cliett. If only the Bulls had a few more defenders like Cliett, the prototype of what the staff likes at the second level. The senior is experienced, tough at the point of attack and able to make plays from sideline-to-sideline. Cliett is the kind of versatile athlete that the staff is able to drop back into coverage or unleash on the blitz. He’s coming off his best season at USF, with an eye on the all-conference team in 2014.
Key players to a successful season: The running backs. Taggart wants to run the ball with authority, much the way he did with Antonio Andrews at Western Kentucky. The Bulls have to replace underrated leading rusher Marcus Shaw, who played well in his final year. The staff has an assortment of candidates, including senior Michael Pierre, junior Willie Davis, sophomore Darius Tice and redshirt freshman Stafon McCray. If one of the four can evolve into an effective feature back, it’s going to make life a ton easier for the skittish quarterbacks.
The season will be a success if ... the Bulls are playing competitive football in the second half of the season. Forget the record this season since it’s unlikely that South Florida is ready to contend for the postseason. Instead, it’ll be worth monitoring the progress of the young team in late October and November. If the Bulls are improving, particularly on offense, as 2014 unfolds, they can carry that momentum into 2015, with a shot to compete for a bonus game and possibly more.
Key game: Nov. 28 vs. UCF. There’s a very good chance that this visit from the rival Knights will be the last impression South Florida makes in 2014. It’d like to leave a positive one against the defending league—and Fiesta Bowl—champs from Orlando. No one around Tampa is going to cop to it, but the Bulls are building for 2015, when the latest recruits are a year older. An upset of UCF would be a terrific way to close out 2014 and get a jump start on 2015.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Offensive touchdowns: South Florida 11 – Opponents 35
- Third-down%: South Florida 28% – Opponents 39%
- Red-zone trips: South Florida 19 - Opponents 45
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