The Bulls are on the road for the first time this season as they head up to New York to take on the Syracuse Orange. Here are some key factors to watch during the game.
First, the Bulls should have Marlon Mack back in the lineup after missing the NIU game due to a concussion (he has practiced this week). This is great news with the Orange defense allowing 229 yards per game on the ground. The rushing attack of Mack, Quinton Flowers, D’Ernest Johnson, and Darius Tice could have a huge game on the ground. Look for the Bulls to go to the ground early and often.
The Orange passing attack is something to be concerned about. Syracuse is averaging 367 passing yards per game through the first two games of the season and they have two veteran receivers that are coming down with most of these yards. Senior Amba Etta-Tawo (6’1″) leads the Orange with 20 receptions for 313 yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. Opposite of him is junior wide receiver Steve Ishmael (6’2″) who has 10 grabs for 101 yards. They are the two big targets for quarterback Eric Dungey in the passing game and will be key targets to cover down the field.
Eric Dungey is off to a solid start this season. He has five touchdown passes, one rushing touchdown and has completed 64% of this throws through the first two games. It will be very important for the front seven of the Bull Shark defense to not only get pressure on him, but also containment as well. Dungey is not as fast as Flowers, but he has enough mobility to extend plays and can pick up a few yards in the ground game, two things the Bulls must be aware of.
An important part of the game to watch will be the accuracy of Quinton Flowers. Flowers completed 63% of his passes against NIU, but is completing 56% combined through the opening two games. Flowers has hit big time plays down the field, but has also missed some wide open throws, especially underneath on short routes. Fortunately, the Bulls have been able to come back several times on the very next play and come away with huge plays, but that was against two lesser opponents. The Cuse secondary is better than what we have seen through the first two weeks and inaccurate passes could come back to hurt the Bulls if they are not careful.
A final note for this game is the obvious trap game aura surrounding the matchup. The Bulls have looked great through the first two weeks, in all phases of the game (special teams was better last weekend). The USF fan base is buzzing about the showdown with FSU on the 24th, drawing a lot of focus and attention accordingly, but USF is focused on one thing right now. Coach Taggart and players have made it clear they are not looking ahead and are focused on Syracuse, avoiding the trap talk. Coach Taggart stated during his weekly press conference ‘“Our guys understand we must respect our opponent we’re playing this week. Anything else doesn’t matter,” head coach Willie Taggart said Tuesday. “The most important game on our schedule is this one because it’s the next game and it’s a big game for us.” Let’s hope they play like it on Saturday afternoon.
by Matt Staton
SoFloBulls.com Columnist | @USFMatt
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