The USF Bulls Look For Record Win In Birmingham
It’s been a full month since the South Florida Bulls have played a football game. With time off it’s hard for any team to stay focused, but USF doesn’t seem worried.
The team arrived in Birmingham on Christmas and got right to work in preparation for the Birmingham Bowl on December 29th.
“We had a little break to go spend time with our families, but guys came back prepared, locked in and focused on what we have to do,” Quinton Flowers said to USF athletic writer Tom Zebold.
The Bulls have already set a program record with 10 wins, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want 11 and just their second win over a SEC opponent. The Gulf Coast Offense is anticipating a good game against South Carolina.
Setting 33 new individual and program milestones in year two of running the Gulf Coast Offense, the Bulls are hungry to put that offense to work against a big USC defense. The Gamecocks’ defense is full of upperclassmen and finished the regular season ranked second in the SEC behind Georgia with 14 interceptions.
That defense was also tied for 12th in the FBS with 25 takeaways and 11th in red zone defense, which is something that has shined for the Gamecocks since defensive-minded Will Muschamp took over the program.
But let’s face it, the Gulf Coast Offense is still going to be tough to stop. Under the guidance of David Reaves, who was promoted to offensive coordinator with Willie Taggart’s departure, nothing has really changed for the offense despite a lot of off season changes already being made in coaching staff.
“It’s hard to stop us with the playmakers we have – the running backs, the quarterbacks, the receivers. From top to bottom, we can make plays anywhere,” junior receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling said to Tom Zebold with USF.
Playmakers like Flowers, Marlon Mack, Rodney Adams, and Valdes-Scantling are sure to give the Gamecocks a run for their money. The Bulls will look to extend their nation-leading streak of 16 games of scoring at least 30 points to 17.
Bulls’ Defense Ready To Make Tackles
There’s a saying, “defenses win you championships.” Well that’s exactly what the USF Bull Shark Defense is preparing to do. Fans have seen the Gulf Coast Offense be explosive all season and now it’s the defense’s time to shine.
The Bulls will be going up against a relatively young Gamecocks offense. Almost 68 percent of USC’s roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores. Thirteen true freshmen have played this season, which includes QB Jake Bentley. Bentley is nursing a bone bruise in his knee, but is still expected to start at the Birmingham Bowl. Since starting midway through the season, the Gamecocks have gone 4-2 and are scoring 10 more points per game under Bentley.
South Carolina is also averaging 183.7 rushing yards in that span opposed to averaging 92.3 in their first six games. But the Bulls have been practicing for exactly that.
With extra bowl practices the defense has been able to practice more variety in preparation for this bowl game. A week before leaving for the Alabama the Bulls defense focuses on proper tackling technique drills and went through several turnover circuits, which will come in hand to stop the South Carolina offense.
The defense has also worked on sticking to their gap assignments and learning the South Carolina offense.
“I think they’re a team that prides itself on physicality. They’re big, they’re tough, they’re physical and they like to run the ball,” safety Nate Godwin said to Tom Zebold. “If we want to come out and start fast, we definitely have to stop the run. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
In USF’s final regular season game the Bulls held the fresh UCF offense to just 64 rushing yards on 35 attempts. That was the season-low for USF and the lowest output by an opponent since holding East Carolina to 62 yards last season.
Where To Watch
Time & Place: 2 p.m. on Thursday at Legion Field (Birmingham, Alabama)
Radio: USF/IMG Network
The Bulls are 1-5 against SEC opponents with their lone win coming against Auburn in overtime.
This is the Bulls eighth bowl appearance in their 16th season of FBS play.
USF had 10 players selected to the all-conference team, led by American Offense Player of the Year Quinton Flowers and three-time first-team selection Marlon Mack.
USF and USC have met once in 2004 with an USC victory 34-3. USF was part of Conference USA at that time and it was the second game of the season.