BULLS : AFTER THE DUST SETTLES : ILLINOIS
By Leo Haggerty
As I predicted, South Florida beat a game but outmanned Illinois squad 47-23 at Raymond James Friday night. Also, the way the game unfolded was pretty much as I expected it to transpire as well.
USF, showing some major rust from their almost two week layoff due to Hurricane Irma, started slow and that was no surprise. With a roster of over 90% Floridians, players and staff had to be concerned about how their families were coping with the aftermath of the storm and its showed with some early lack of concentration penalties.
Finally, the Bulls got their act together and that came on their final drive of the first half. After Illini freshman RB Mike Epstein, who coincidentally is from Florida, scored on a 45-yard run, it became the Quinton Flowers show for the last 2:18 before intermission.
#9 showed why he’s the reigning AAC Offensive Player of the Year. Flowers navigated the 75 yards in nine plays culminating with a six-yard scramble to the right pylon putting the Green & Gold up 23-9 at intermission and that, for all intents and purposes, had the Fat Lady humming.
In my opinion, there’s probably only two other QBs in the game that would have even thought of attempting to outrun the defense and make it to the end zone with only eight seconds left in the period. One is at Louisville and the other started his first NFL game for Houston. I’ll let you surmise who they are.
The defense kept the big plays to a minimum. When you have the Warp 1 offense wearing the same color jerseys as you, keeping a team in the low 20’s will win a lot of games. That you can take to the bank.
Special teams, well, that’s another story. See below for my commentary on that subject.
My overall grade grade for the game was a B- and that may be a little generous even though the Green & Gold put up 47 on the scoreboard. I have two reasons why the grade wasn’t an A+ and here they are.
First, way too many penalties. Double digits before halftime and that’s inexcusable. That’s the bad news. The good news is almost all are correctable. A good majority of the yellow laundry called against the Bulls were false starts and illegal procedure penalties on the offense. Folks, chalk that up to Hurricane Irma.
Second, more special teams breakdowns. South Florida, in three games, have had four kicks blocked. Two punts, with one being a sudden change score against Stony Brook, along with a field goal and an extra point that was returned for a deuce in the Illinois game. That has to be fixed yesterday and I would suspect USF Special Teams Coach Justin Burke started working to resolve thise problems on the bus ride back to campus.
The bottom line is South Florida is 3-0 going into the Thursday night tilt with Temple and the Owls were the only AAC team to beat the Bulls last year.
All things considered, after the 10 days the Bulls have been through, the train is still on the track moving in the right direction. With a Category 4 hurricane having Florida in its cross hairs, the above outcome was in serious doubt at this time a week ago.
All photos above and below courtesy of photojournalists Trace Crisp and Matt Crisp.