USF Football

WKU Week 1 Recap – Don’t Panic

Well, it was not the outcome we wished for, and it was an emotional roller-coaster for Bulls fans who have been keeping the hope alive, but let's not focus on the negatives here.

To be fair, this is week one with a first-time head coach and a really young team. I am in no way celebrating moral victories, because that isn’t what the foundation of USF football was built on, but there were some positives to take away from this team in the first game of the Golesh Era.

This game couldn’t have started any better for the Bulls, the first play was a rush from one of my impact transfersNay’Quan Wright, who picked up a nice gain of eight yards to start the drive off.  After a few more positive carries by Wright, the Bulls found themselves in a 4th and goal situation and capped the drive off with a touchdown on a speed-option keep by quarterback Byrum Brown. After about nine months without seeing our guys go to war, the first drive felt special.

Now it was the defense’s turn to show up for the first time of the season. After witnessing a defense that struggled last season, we all were aware that THIS was where we wanted to see change. And very similar to the offensive start, the defense’s first drive went really well. The Bulls defense started the game by forcing an offense that led the country in passing yards last season to an easy three and out. All of a sudden, everything felt right, you could see the emotion and hype that our guys were playing with, and we were eager to keep this momentum going.

Following an interception thrown by Byrum Brown, the Hilltoppers offense responded with a score to tie the game, but hope never left for the Bulls. Golesh and his staff stayed true to their strategy and continued to run a high-tempo offense that would keep the defense guessing. And man, did it work; the Bulls get the ball back with five minutes left in the first quarter and Brown throws an absolute strike to wide receiver, Khafre Brown for an 84 yard touchdown to take the lead. After forcing another three and out, we cap off a thirteen play drive with a field goal to end the first quarter with a 17-7 lead.

THIS is what we have hoped for, this was the type of success we know we are capable of, but as the game went on, the Bulls seemed to struggle. All of a sudden, the Hilltoppers defense was able to keep up with the tempo of Golesh’s scheme and began to get their quarterback, Austin Reed in a groove as well. After a couple straight three and outs by the Bulls offense, the game was tied 17-17, and the Hilltoppers were in control of the game. This all led to an unfortunate outcome, but we can take away a few things going into our first game at home next week against the FAMU Rattlers.

The first positive I want to point out is the secondary of Coach Todd Orlando’s defense. I was impressed with how well our defensive backs took control and managed to win the majority of their 1-on-1 match-ups. Transfer Braxton Clark (CB) played with a ton of physicality, Aamaris Brown (CB) was on the hip of every deep ball thrown his way, and safeties Jaelen Stokes, Christopher Townsel, and Logan Berryhill all made great plays in coverage and in run support. It was great to see this unit play with so much aggression and confidence because we know the talent has always been there to do so. This is a huge positive going into week 2 because we will be up against an athletic Rattlers squad, and being able to cover downfield is a necessity.

The other positive we can take from this game is that there seems to be an offensive identity being established, and with more time, we can be threatening. The high-tempo offense was something I predicted because this is a new team with new coaches, and since there is no true film for opponents to go by it can be an effective strategy to catch defenses off guard. Considering the Bulls’ rushing stats totaled to 384 yards with 281 of them coming from Byrum Brown and Nay’Quan Wright, there will be a lot of trust with this team on the ground. Having an effective running game will be a luxury for the entire season because if we can wear defenses down and keep a healthy rotation of running backs, points will be scored and we will be able to finish the games out.

Although this felt like a movie we have watched over and over again; beginning with so much promise and ultimately becoming stagnant and not finding a way to close it out, we have to look at our improvements. The Bulls got better in many ways and surely have not digressed. We will take the positives into next week and hope to get a win for the first home crowd of the 2023 season. It will be a focus of discipline and sharpening for the Bulls this week and we will be back stronger to get this thing in the right direction.

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