What Went Wrong For USF In Their First Loss Of Season

The Houston Cougars came to Tampa with plans of forcing USF to pass the ball rather than run it, and they succeeded in doing that. They also succeeded in handing the Bulls their first loss of the season, snapping a 12 game winning streak.

It was a different sense of momentum for the Bulls as Houston’s defensive tackle Ed Oliver forced USF to have break away from their usual dominating run game. In fact, USF quarterback Quinton Flowers threw for 325 yards and ran for just seven yards. That’s a shocking different for the dual-threat quarterback who has been using his legs more often than his arm.

The Bulls had 462 total yards, 137 of those came on the ground. While the numbers looked impressive, play on the field was quite the opposite, and it wasn’t enough for the undefeated Bulls.

So what went wrong for USF? Was it the defense? Or was it new Offensive Coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s play calling? We’ll start with the play calling.

With snagging new head coach Charlie Strong, the Bulls also inherited just about a whole new coaching staff including Gilbert. The O.C. and quarterbacks coach followed Strong from Texas, but the question of whether Gilbert is running this offense to their fullest potential is now front and center.

Gone is the Gulf Coast Offense now it seems USF is a ‘run it up the middle’ offense. (By the way, yes, that was sarcasm). In a game playing one of the nation’s best edge rushers (Oliver), where were the slant passes or running back screens?

“They (Houston) loaded the box, so whatever they give you, you’ve gotta take,” said Strong when asked if the offense was creative enough.

Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver (10) sacks South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Houston upset South Florida 28-24. South Florida’s offensive lineman Eric Mayes (55) looks on. Photo: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara.

It wasn’t just the play calling that went against USF in their first loss of the season though; it was the defense’s disappearance in the second half as well.

In the first half, the USF defense held Houston to just 82 total yards, 2.7 yards/per, and three first downs. The Bulls also had six tackles for loss and had a 7-0 lead but that all changed in the second half.

Houston sophomore D’Eriq King entered the game in place of starter Kyle Postma, who exited in the first half and lit USF’s defense up. King threw for 137 yards and ran for 83 while leading the Cougars to 397 total yards, 255 of those on the ground.

“We’ve got to learn how to finish in the fourth quarter,” said linebacker Auggie Sanchez. “the last two games you saw it. Tulane came back and was really close, and Houston came back today and finished the job.”

On fourth-and-24 King completed a 30-year pass into traffic to set the Cougars up for the game-winning touchdown.

“It was back and forth, but the thing about it is one play doesn’t beat you. There were many opportunities in the first quarter… Defensively, we can’t allow them to rush the ball the way they did. On fourth-and-24, just go up and knock it down, just get off the field and the game is over,” said Strong.

“We’ve got to get back to playing USF defense,” said Sanchez. “These past two weeks haven’t been USF defense.”

Houston quarterback D’Eriq King (4) breaks away from South Florida defensive tackle Bruce Hector (60) and defensive end Greg Reaves (41) on what proved to be the game-winning touchdown run during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Houston upset South Florida 28-24. Photo: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara.

The defense had five sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

USF will travel to Connecticut for another conference game next weekend with kickoff set for 3:30 p.m.

“I told our team, our goals are still in front of us,” said Strong. “We’ve just got to go win our next three conference games, and we’ll get to where we need to get to.”

Side Notes:

  • Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a career night with ten catches for 186 yards for his first 100-yard receiving game. Tonight’s numbers are second on USF’s single-game chart, held by Andre Davis who recorded 191 yards against Nevada on Sept. 8, 2012.
  • Quinton Flower’s 325 passing yards are the second-highest total of his career.
  • Houston rushed for 255 yards, which is an opponent season high.
  • USF’ nation-leading win streak was halted tonight at 12 straight wins, one game after breaking the NCAA record with 24 consecutive games scoring 30 plus points.
  • DT Deadrin Senat had a career-high 12 tackles.

*Video courtesy of USF Athletics*

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.