Keys To USF’s Sixth Encounter With The Big Ten

Quarterback Quinton Flowers talks about the win against Stony Brook.

 

Florida came to a standstill as Hurricane Irma ripped through the state over the weekend but now that’s in the past, and it’s back to business for USF football.

Head coach Charlie Strong and the Bulls took a weekend off due to the weather, missing their first conference game of the season against UConn. On Tuesday USF resumed practice in anticipation of their Friday night match up with Illinois.

“We are grateful that our student-athletes, staff and their families are safe and accounted for,” said USF Director of Athletics Mark Harlan in a press release. “After consulting with university leadership and the Tampa Sports Authority, we are confident that Friday’s game can proceed safely as scheduled without impacting the recovery efforts.”

Friday will mark USF’s sixth time tackling a Big Ten team in program history. In 2015 the Bulls fell to Maryland 35-17, 2014 a 24-17 loss to Maryland, and losses to Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State.

Illinois comes into the game with two impressive wins over Western Kentucky and Ball State. They bring junior quarterback Chayce Crouch and senior wide receiver Malik Turner to Tampa as big threats on offense. USF will have just three days of preparation before kickoff at 7 p.m. on Friday.

“You look at last week, we didn’t get to play that game, so now we just take last week and some of the things we were going to use game plan wise we can just take them into this week,” said Strong during the weekly press conference.

After a touch and go performance by the Bulls in their last game against Stony Brook having a potent offense and defense will be important against Illinois.

Figuring Out The Right O-Line

Figuring out the perfect five to have up front is a task offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert is still working on. The Bulls offense put up 315 rushing yards against San Jose State and 153 rushing yards against Stony Brook.

Now the Bulls new offense will face some tough defensive players on Illinois’ roster. Junior LB Julian Jones is coming off a pick six for the Illini against WKU, which saw the Illini defense score as many points as WKU’s offense. Other impact players the Bulls offensive line will have to guard against are junior LB Del’Shawn Phillips, who recorded 16 tackles last week and freshman DE Bobby Roundtree who has three sacks in two games.

The offensive line will have a hard task of protecting quarterback Quinton Flowers from being sacked and opening up the path for the USF run game to take off.

A Recharged Defense Ready For Friday Night Lights

As mentioned before Illinois brings a handful of talented guys to Tampa on an offense that has multiple options of attack. USF’s defense will look to have a big game as they continue to get better and improve off of last year.

With last weekends game against UConn canceled the Bulls’ defense saw rest from Friday-Monday and will enter Friday nights game refreshed and recharged. The defense is allowing just 2.7 yards per carry and opponents have converted on third downs less than a third of the time.

Furthermore, USF ranks in the top five nationally with five interceptions.

“Defensively, we’ve taken a step forward, and we’ve just got to keep growing and going,” said senior linebacker Auggie Sanchez to USF Athletics. “I think that’s kind of what you’re going to see throughout the year just because of that chip on our shoulder. We don’t want to be the weak link.”

An Up-Tempo Offense Is Ready To Go

In the Bulls first two games of the season fans saw an offense they weren’t quite use to. Operating under a new coaching staff takes some getting use to and Friday night might show a fast offense that has been waiting to emerge.

Flowers, along with running backs D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice, is ready to put on a show that will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Photo: USF Athletics

Illinois’ defense has only allowed 14 points per game this season, and USF will look to break that trend. The Bulls want to extend their nation-leading streak of 19 straight 30-plus point games.

Getting the offense going early and getting points on the board right away will be a big key for USF. Downfield throws and a big run game are needed to secure USF’s first win against a Big Ten opponent.

Complimentary Admission For First Responders & High School Football Teams

USF announced Friday’s game will admit first responders and their families as well as Florida high school football teams for free.

“It’s about us giving back,” said Strong in a press release. “We want to make sure that everyone is working to give back and get their life (together). It’s going to take a while; we know that. When things happen, we just want to make sure people understand that we do understand. We’re not going through what they’re going through, but we can help them get through what they’re going through.”

First responders and families will get free entry for up to four people. Must provide their official issued ID, or a copy if the responder isn’t present, at Raymond James Stadium south plaza will call ticket window.

Florida high school football teams, most of which have their own games canceled due to Irma, are asked to contact Mike Giglio ([email protected]) or Lacey King ([email protected]) if they wish to attend. Pre-registration is necessary to receive complimentary admission for players and coaches. Please have requests in by Friday at noon.

Where To Watch:

Game: USF vs. Illinois

Where: Raymond James Stadium

Time: Friday at 7 p.m.

Radio: 820 AM

TV: ESPN

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Allison Leslie is a University of South Florida graduate with a bachelors degree in Mass Communications. She joined Genesis in 2016. With a passion for sports, Allison has interned with 620 WDAE, Pewter Report, Trifecta Team: St. Petersburg Bowl, Bullscast, and many other publications. Being a native to the Bay Area, she has followed and supported Tampa Bay teams her whole life.