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The Bulls are ready to go and are hoping to get the offense going in this key conference match-up after being held in the check in the meeting last year against Memphis. Are Quinton Flowers and the USF ground game ready to go in this one? Here are some key players to watch on the Memphis defensive side of the ball.
The Bulls are averaging 43 points per game this year while averaging 272 yards per game on the ground overall and 502 yards per game. On the other side, the Tigers are allowing 194 yards per game on the ground and 418 yards per game overall. In their win last year, the Tigers allowed 377 total yards against them including 178 of them coming on the ground. If USF is going to win this game, the ground game must take over from the start.
The Tigers gave up some rushing yards last year, but shut down the USF passing game and limited Quinton Flowers and his ability to run the ball. Flowers was just 17 for 26 for 199 yards including a touchdown and an interception. Flowers also had just 8 carries for 33 yards as the Tigers defensive front seven took away his rushing lanes and slowed down the USF offense.
Leading the front seven that shut down Flowers last year is junior linebacker Genard Avery (6’1″ 255 lbs.) who has 57 tackles on the season with seven tackles for loss (3 sacks), two interceptions, and has forced two fumbles. Avery had five tackles including a tackle for loss in the game last year and along with the rest of the front seven, will be tasked again to slow Flowers and Marlon Mack. Mack had 107 yards on 20 carries last year, but never been able to break out for an kind of explosive scoring plays.
If USF can’t get the running game going, it won’t get much easier in the passing game for the USF receivers. The Tigers have some solid secondary players led by junior cornerback Jonathan Cook (6′ 198 lbs.) who has 56 tackles on the year with three tackles for loss and one interception. On the other side of him is senior Arthur Maulet (5’11” 190 lbs.) who has 39 tackles with two interceptions with nine pass break-ups (two tackles and a pass break-up in the game last year). Both Cook and Maulet are veteran players that will be ready for the USF receivers like Rodney Adams.
Adams had just three receptions for 36 yards in the game last year as the Tigers shut him and the USF offense down. If the USF offense is going to do anything in this game, it all starts and end with Flowers, both running and throwing it. It should be noted that the Tigers had zero sacks against Flowers last year, instead just clogging him up and taking away anything down the field. If he can escape, the USF offense could get rolling early and often.
I think with a week to gameplan and prepare, the Bulls should come out sharp in this game and be able to score at will against the Tigers. I don’t see a defensive battle here, instead, we could be in for an offensive fire fight, something the Bulls are prepared for. If our defense can force a stop here and there, the offense can do the rest.
by Matt Staton
SoFloBulls.com Columnist | @USFMatt
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