South Florida Bulls football: Observations vs Stony Brook
The South Florida Bulls avoided the upset bug for an ugly 31-17 win over the Stony Brook Seawolves. Here are some observations from the game.
The need for an on-campus stadium
This is a hot topic in Tampa. Speaking from experience, there is something special about having a football stadium on your school’s campus. I’ve been to numerous South Florida games throughout the years and while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Raymond James Stadium have made strides of making the stadium feel like home for the Bulls, it’s not and everyone knows it’s not. Raymond James Stadium holds 65,890 seats total.
Even with the upper decks closed, which they are for most Bulls games, this is a large stadium and while luxurious for the fans with the two giant end zone video screens and vertical video screens at each corner of the stadium, diminishes some of the potential home field advantages the Bulls could benefit from. The challenge comes down to space and money. In recent stadium feasibility studies, the location issue looks to have been solved. With costs rising, building a stadium becomes a bigger and bigger challenge. They could go economical with a steel based stadium like Florida State and UCF did, or go with the higher quality concrete stadium. The design can always be made to be expanded should demand warrant it.
Rain really stinks
Florida is loaded with distractions. Getting fans to want to come to the game at all is a challenge for all schools in the state. When it’s raining, it becomes that much more difficult. Today, the rains came an hour before kickoff, so many fans were already on site, but while they may be on site, not everyone is going to brave the rain in their seats.
In this game, the covered seats in the club section on the home side look filled, but there are a lot of empty seats. Fans slowly trickled to their seats as the game went on, but the stadium ended up being nowhere close to full. The weather did not help, but South Florida has struggled to get fans in the stands against less than marquee opponents.
The Heard of Thunder
The band gets little recognition. While not wild about the uniforms, their sound was good. Hearing the fight song brings back memories of a game in 1998 before the school had its own marching band. My high school for the season opener filled that role.
A great gesture was made by South Florida as a moment of silence was shared for the city of Houston and the University of Houston, a conference mate of South Florida’s in the AAC. Then, everyone stood in solidarity for the national anthem. Playing Muse’s Uprising at halftime with high school kids made me a fan. Bonus points!
Flowers carries the torch
Quinton Flowers does it all. He is the offense and the season will be made or broken by him. He struggled early on with the wet field and the offense followed suit. He’s got amazing wheels and is very difficult to cover when he scrambles.
Flowers takes a lot of hard hits due to his running, but with an ineffective running game elsewhere, he hasn’t had much of a choice. His throws have been high all day and have led to turnovers. On the flip side, Stony Brook’s QB Joe Carbone is also willing to run and take a hit. Carbone’s best play was also when he scrambled after his receivers were well covered.
Bulls struggled early…again
Despite an early 3 and out for Stony Brook, the Bulls offense struggled on their first possession, which led to a failed 4th down conversion. The Seawolves operated out of the no huddle offense and South Florida had some trouble containing it. The Bulls are bigger and faster than the Seawolves. They need to show some explosiveness.
The Bulls allowed more first quarter points by having a punt blocked in the end zone, which was recovered by Stony Brook for a touchdown. After Quinton Flowers continued to create offense out of nothing, the Bulls finally found some first quarter points. They have been outscored 23-7 in the first quarter. It wasn’t until the field started drying in the second half that the Bulls offense started to show signs of life.
Bulls have a stout defense
Despite struggling with the no huddle, the front seven of the Bulls is very strong. They definitely won the line of scrimmage battle against Stony Brook and shut down the Seawolves running game. Even when the Seawolves started putting drives together, the defense would clamp down and prevent points.
The defense is going to carry this team, but they need to capitalize on mistakes. There were a number of dropped interceptions that should have been caught. These, along with the offensive struggles, is giving Stony Brook opportunities to find holes.
Tajee Fullwodd is a really good punt returner
Fullwodd had a really shifty 37-yard punt return that he single handily made happen in the first half and a big 46-yard return in the second half that led to a field goal. There were a number of Seawolves that had good opportunities for a tackle and he found ways to avoid them.
Stony Brook’s Donald Liotine is a tough runner
With the Stony Brook offensive line getting run over by the Bulls defensive line, Liotine has done a surprisingly good job getting positive yards. He helped close out the first half with some tough running. His third and short power running have helped keep multiple drives alive for the Seawolves. His kick returning is pretty good too when his blockers aren’t drawing flags.
Darius Tice needs to be the feature back
Replacing Marlon Mack isn’t easy, but it has to be done. Charlie Strong has opted to switch between the senior Tice and senior D’Ernest Johnson. Neither has looked great, but Tice has definitely been the more decisive running who has been able to generate some positive offense in a game where the offensive rhythm is off. As the second half wore on, Tice saw more action on the field and capped his day with a 14-yard touchdown run to put the game away. This needs to continue.
The Florida heat wore down Stony Brook
Florida teams have the distinct advantage of practicing in the heat and humidity. Visiting teams do not. In the second half, a number of Seawolves went down with what looked like cramping symptoms. The humidity has been very high today with the rain earlier in the game. The sun coming out in the second half offered little consolation.
South Florida disappoints Vegas again
The Bulls opened as a 17-point favorite against Stony Brook that blew up to a 35.5 point line. Again, South Florida failed to live up to the expectations in Vegas. They missed the 21 point spread against San Jose State last week.
In coach Charlie Strong’s opening statement, he said that “All things that happened today, all the issues that we had, they can be corrected.”
When talking about heading to UConn for next week’s conference opener: “We know this. We can’t go out there and play like we did the last two weeks. We have to get our minds right and stay focused and the preparation has to be there.”
When asked by me about the lack of explosiveness of the offensive line: “The game is always fundamentals and technique and it’s things that can be corrected.”When asked if this was their best game so far: “No, I thought today we were awful. Today’s game? You just watched that, didn’t you?” The media member said he did to a few chuckles to which Strong finished, “Yeah, okay. No, I didn’t think we played very well at all.”
When asked if this was their best game so far: “No, I thought today we were awful. Today’s game? You just watched that, didn’t you?” The media member said he did to a few chuckles to which Strong finished, “Yeah, okay. No, I didn’t think we played very well at all.”