BULLS – GOAL LINE STAND : SOUTH CAROLINA STATE
By Leo Haggerty
Well, if there was ever a must-win game on the South Florida football schedule it’s this weekend. I would venture to say that the Green & Gold are at the crossroads of the 2019 season. Does USF get the train back on track with their first victory of the season or do the Bulls fall to 0-3?
To answer that question, lets look at some statistics as well as suppositions. State struts into this contest at 2-0 and probably brimming with confidence after a 34-0 home whitewashing of Lane College. USF limps into Raymond James Stadium 0-2 after letting one get away to the tune of 14-10 against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Yes, I realize the Dogs haven’t lined up across from Power 5 opponents like Wisconsin and Georgia Tech. Still, all the coaches and players from the Palmetto State know is that they’re undefeated and the team they’re playing hasn’t won a game yet this season. It’s that simple.
Below are my four keys to victory. Not too difficult but it’s going to take a total team effort by the Bulls to accomplish. Let’s see if you concur.
1ST DOWN – SETTLE ON A QB
I will give you my own personal insight into this situation. You may not agree with this hypothesis but her goes.
You want competition at every position except quarterback. Every coach wants to be able to run out the same signal caller all season because it you have two QBs you, in reality, have none.
HC Charlie Strong needs to, if need be, roll the dice and settle on one for the rest of the season. Even if his decision is wrong, you have continuity in the huddle and, right now, the Bulls needs stability on offense.
Personally, I’m going with SR Blake Barnett on an extremely short leash. #11 has to produce and produce now.
I would make it crystal clear to the Corona, CA native that this is his last ride on the merry-go-round. I would strongly emphasize that if I have to go to FR backup QB Jordan McCoud it will be for the remainder of the season.
That should solve you quarterback problems. If that doesn’t light a fire under BB, then nothing will.
If that happens, then you give the reigns to McCloud. With a bye week following the SC State contest, that gives #12 time to prepare for the AAC opener against SMU at Raymond James Stadium on September 28th.
2ND DOWN – SCORE QUICKLY AND OFTEN
Please understand this. South Carolina State will roll into the RayJay Saturday fully expecting to come away with a victory and here’s why.
Yes, the Bulldogs are 2-0. Yes, they won both games at home. Yes, it was against less-than-national powerhouses Wofford College and Lane.
Still, State is undefeated and USF is o-for-2019 so far. Dogs HC Oliver Pough will have the Navy & Garnet primed for an upset of a Division 1 football program. If you don’t think that will help recruiting then you’re living under a rock.
South Florida needs to jump on the contingent from Orangeburg right from the opening kickoff. Don’t let them think for a moment that they can stay with the Green & Gold. The longer the Bulls let SC State stay in the game, the more confident the Bulldogs will become.
Snuff out any flames of upset immediately. Get the lead and keep adding to it like Wisconsin did to you. Enough said about that.
3RD DOWN – A GOOD HALF HOUR
Right now, expecting the Bulls to put together a complete football game in all three phases is a pipe dream. So what is a realistic and attainable goal for South Florida?
I would be happy for half a game of good football. Just 30 minutes of no stupid penalties as well as a minimum of mental errors along with a limited amount of dumb plays.
If the Bulls can put together two back-to back periods, that should be enough to build a sizable lead. Now, if those two quarters are in the second half, that could be a touch dicey depending on how the first half played out.
Still, 30 minutes of good football may be all the Bulls can generate right now. If that’s the case, I’ll take it.
4TH DOWN – GIVE THE HOME CROWD SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT
Let me take you back to the home opener. 45,000 fans made it to Raymond James to see the Bulls take on Wisconsin.
Sadly, before the fans could even settle into triple digit decibel cheering mode, the Badgers took the opening kickoff and found the end zone just over four minutes into the tilt. For all intents and purposes, the rout was on and the crowd was silenced.
USF needs to give their fans something to cheer about. The Bulls need to make some “splash plays” early so the crowd gets into the game.
When the crowd gets boisterous, it makes it tough on the visiting team to run their offense. Verbal communication is almost impossible and teams are forced to use hand signals or, even worse, go on a silent count.
South Florida needs to have their fans turn the RayJay into a house of horrors for the opposition. The only way to do that is to get their fans energized and that will happen when the Bulls start playing exciting football.
OK, so I’ve been wrong twice about the Bulls. What do they say, the third time is the charm, right?
Well, here goes. You have to believe that HC Charlie Strong and his staff will have the Bulls focused on what it takes to win. Not to stay close but to secure a victory.
I believe this is the game that the offense finally kicks it into high gear. Also, I think the defense will be invigorated after holding Georgia Tech to 14 second period points.
Finally, weather could be a factor and we saw last night how Mother Nature is the great equalized in the Bucs win at Carolina. If the tropical storm that is predicted shows up, all bets are off
With all that being said, I think South Florida has too much talent on both sides of the ball. Now, I don’t expect State to just turtle up. SF, 35-23, in a game where the Bulls pull away after halftime.