USF Is Winning But Is Play Calling An Issue?

Running back D’Ernest Johnson talks about USF’s win over Temple. Video courtesy of USF Athletics.

The USF football team is 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in conference play after taking down the Temple Owls 43-7. Though a win is a win, USF’s offense continues to show struggles already four weeks into the season.

Quarterback Quinton Flowers was 8-for-20 for 96 yards and rushed for 59 yards and two touchdowns. He broke the USF record for most career rushing touchdowns, previously held by former running back Marlon Mack.

While the 2016 AAC Offensive Player of the Year didn’t have his strongest performance, it wasn’t him that had many fans scratching their heads. In the first three quarters, there were nine occasions when USF started a drive in Temple territory, which totaled only 26 points (that averages 2.89 points per possession).

“I look at us on offense, and we had two 100-yard rushers. I know we didn’t produce the touchdowns, but we got the field goals,” head coach Charlie Strong said after the game. “We cant have all those dropped balls or all those penalties.”

Perhaps the most memorable play that ended with USF settling for a field goal came off nickel back Deatrick Nichols’ second interception. The Bulls took over possession at Temple’s six-yard line midway through the second quarter. On fourth down at the two-yard line, running back D’Ernest Johnson was sent up the middle and was stopped short.

“We definitely did leave a lot of points on the field tonight,” said Johnson.

South Florida running back Darius Tice (6) runs 47-yards for a touchdown against Temple during the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Photo: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara.

While the run game was more dominant than the passing game with running back Darius Tice having another 100-yard game, there seemed to be times when playcalling was debatable. Throughout the game, there were time Flowers looked visibly frustrated, and times the offense was still figuring out how offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert wanted them to line up as the play clock ticked down.

“Frustrated a little bit, but it’s just part of the game, and you’ve got to stay in the game,” said Johnson. “We overcame a lot of adversity coming into the game, and we got a ‘W,’ so that’s all that matters.”

Of course, it is hard to talk about the play calling when the passing game wasn’t as consistent as the run game. Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Flowers had a hard time connecting, and there were many dropped balls.

“When you talk about offense, it’s rhythm,” said Strong. “When you have those balls, and you drop those balls, you have to be able to bounce back.”

Despite the struggles, the offense continues to overpower their opponents and get points on the board, whether it’s pretty or not. With dynamic players like Flowers, Johnson and Tice there are many options for Gilbert and Strong to turn to for points on the board.

South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers, left, runs past Temple defensive lineman Jacob Martin during the second half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Photo: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara.

Right now the highlight of USF is the defense. They came up with six takeaways and held Temple to just 85 total yards.

“It’s great, we’ve got a lot of playmakers on the defensive side,” commented Johnson. “Everybody stepped up and did their job.”

“We played great. We played for each other and put everything on the line,” said Bulls senior cornerback Deatrick Nichols. “When we think about defense, we think about the dirty work. We don’t want to shine…we just keep grinding on defense.”

South Florida cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) runs with the football after intercepting a pass intended for Temple wide receiver Ventell Bryant (19) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Photo: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara.

“We didn’t have a great night on offense tonight, but we played well in the kicking game, and we played well on defense,” Strong added. “Now the offense knows they are going to have to come in next week and do something… so that’s good.”

So is play calling a problem for USF, or is it more along the lines of now the defense is showing up and not letting the offense have all of the spotlight?

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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.