Well, it didn’t go the way anyone wanted or could have predicted. Everyone knew Florida State would be prepared for this game, but no one expected the Bulls to play as poorly as they did. USF, now 3-1, has a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball and a lot of things to clean up before hitting the road next week. Let’s break it down by offense, defense, and then special teams before wrapping up everything.
So, let’s get started on the offensive side of the ball where on paper it shows we scored 35 points. While that is true, there is more to this number. USF scored 35 points, but 21 of them came in the second half after the Bulls trailed 38 to 14 after half time. Most of the points in the second half came off of short runs, including the final two touchdowns by D’Ernest Johnson that were from 4 yards out and then 2 yards out.
Speaking of the run game, the Bulls totaled 290 yards on the ground in this game, which is a solid number overall. Marlon Mack had 12 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown. D’Ernest Johnson had 8 carries for 82 yards and 3 touchdown, with most of those carries coming late in the game after Mack left due to an injury (got poked in the eye). Darius Tice had 2 carries for 4 yards but left the game after catching a pass late in the 4th quarter and appeared to break his ankle, which is really bad news for the senior and even worse news for the offense moving forward. The real story of the run game was Quinton Flowers who had 18 carries for 159 total yards including a long run of 48 yards. Most of these runs came late in the game as the Seminoles began to sub in more replacement defensive players because those runs were not there in the first half which leads me to the overall play of Flowers in this game.
Where do I start? Flowers had a rough game throwing the ball. He was just 5 for 14 in the game for 160 yards including one passing touchdown but also threw two interceptions. The opening throw to Rodney Adams for 84 yards was great and got the stadium fired up, but after that, he could not find any targets. Many of his throws were off, either too long or just not catchable. The FSU defense took away some of the deep routes away throughout the game but it was his inaccuracy on the shorter routes that consistently hurt him. Another factor that took him out of the game was the playcalling. The Bulls relied on their zone reads, using the jet sweep and other motion plays that were able take advantage of the slower skill players of Syracuse last week, but they failed against FSU. The Seminoles were waiting on the wings and nothing from sideline to sideline was working. It was frustrating to watch and it bottled up the USF offense until late in the game.
Let’s switch to the defense, or the lack thereof. The unit allowed 647 total yards against them, 7.9 yards per play, and an astonishing 478 yards on the ground (7.6 yards per carry) and 6 rushing touchdowns overall, yikes. The biggest factor the Bulls could not stop all game was Dalvin Cook who had 28 carries for 267 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns, averaging 9.5 yards per carry including a 75 yard run at the start of the game. After going for 266 yards and 3 scores in the meeting last year, the Bulls knew Cook would be a key guy to bottle up, but they just could not get it done throughout the game. The Seminoles blocked well on the edges and the Bulls simply could not make tackles in space or get the guys out on the perimeter to stop Cook. Then after Cook came out, his back-up, Jacques Patrick (weighing in at 6’2″ 231 lbs.) had 20 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown, running hard inside the tackles and gashing the Bulls inside.
After the game Coach Taggart said the Bulls did a bad job is controlling the ground game and pointed out the tackling was one of the key issues. In the pass game, the Bulls did slightly better, holding Deondre Francois in check as he went 11 for 19 for 169 with 1 touchdown, but did go down for 3 sacks in the game. The Bulls had some stops late, but at that point, the Seminoles were just grinding away at the clock and rolling up the rushing yards. Individually Devin Abraham led the way with 10 tackles for the Bulls. Auggie Sanchez had 7 tackles with a sack, forced a fumble and recovered one as the unite totaled 7 tackles for loss in the game, but it just wasn’t enough.
On special teams, there were not a lot of major issues, although the Seminoles did put together some really solid kick returns against the coverage unit. The best individual performance was from the former Seminole, Jonathan Hernandez, who punted the ball 6 times in the game, averaging 47.5 yards per kick, and hitting a long of 54 yards. He was consistently pinning the Noles back deep and had a really solid game.
Well, the Bulls are now 3-1 on the year, and must regroup after this ugly loss at home. They got roughed up, had a few injuries with Tice being the biggest (Mack is also a concern), and had a lot of issues on both sides of the ball to clean up and have a week before heading to Cincinnati to begin conference play. This game hurts, but the overall goal of the AAC title is still alive and they must prepare for a Bearcats team that will prove to be tough match-up next weekend.