South Florida Bulls vs Illinois Observations
Here are some observations on South Florida’s 47-23 win over Illinois.
- Hurricane Irma created a mess.
No one can doubt the impact hurricane Irma had on the whole state of Florida. Almost all games involving Florida schools were canceled last week, including South Florida at UConn in an American Athletic Conference matchup. Fellow conference mate UCF had to cancel a home game vs Memphis and a home game vs Georgia Tech. Florida, Florida State, and Miami also had to nix their respective games. This weekend’s Florida State vs Miami game was rescheduled until October 7.
- The AAC did an excellent job adapting.
Give AAC commissioner Mike Aresco and the member schools a lot of credit as multiple teams juggled their schedules to accommodate getting this game, as well as UCF vs Memphis back on the schedule. The AAC helped with funding buyouts. While teams like Houston, ECU, and Cincinnati only had to move games around with their bye weeks, South Florida, UCF, and Memphis each lost a game. South Florida lost their October 14th out of conference home game against UMass and now host Cincinnati that day and Houston on October 28th. November 4th is now the makeup date for the postponed game at UConn. With South Florida and UCF each losing games, it makes that regular season finale over Thanksgiving weekend that much more of a big deal.
- The Tampa Bay community needed this game.
Sports is one of the tools we use when we are recovering from a disaster. Houston Texan J.J. Watt embodies this truth as he raised $35.8M from over 200,000 individual donors for Hurricane Harvey recovery. When Irma hit, over 13 million were without power. While that number has decreased as linemen from across the country have been working tirelessly to repair power lines, many are still stuck with hot and humid homes. The game works as a distraction that brings the whole community together. With area high school football still out of commission, South Florida offered free tickets for high school football teams as well as first responders to come. Call it what you want, be it thoughtful, opportunistic, gracious, or desperate considering the team’s attendance woes. This was a smart move by the athletic department. Not only is it good for the community, but an empty seat can’t buy a hot dog. Thousands of people took advantage of this opportunity and were able to leave their life worries behind for a few hours. Heavy late afternoon showers and a pregame lightning delay did not help, but there is a noticeable orange presence from visiting Illinois fans. Kudos on recognizing the first responders and military who also have helped with the recovery from the storm.
- The offensive line still needs work.
After some great runs using traps and other misdirection early on, the offensive line was showing slight signs of improvement. Their pass blocking, however, needs more work. They have given up multiple batted passes, which led to a stalled drive and a blocked field The Bulls have had some successful chunk plays on offense by utilizing their speed and running to the outside.
- Lovie Smith in Tampa.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith made his return to the Tampa Bay area as head coach of Illinois. Smith was also an assistant before becoming the Chicago Bears head coach previously. He was always well liked by Bucs fans.
- Special teams has some serious blocking problems.
Good lord, this is bad. The Bulls gave up a blocked punt in their last game for a touchdown and had 2 kicks blocked in the 1st quarter alone against Illinois. The second block was on a PAT that led to 2 points for Illinois. The fact that kicks were made might mean some Bulls fans might need to go fulfill their promises and show up in their respective place of worship.
- Penalties, penalties, penalties.
This was awful. Losing Deadrin Senat early on due to a targeting call and the team even being called on a sideline violation shows a lack of discipline. In the 1st quarter alone, the Bulls were flagged 7 times for 45 yards. Illinois was really bad in the penalties category too with 7 penalties for 50 yards in the 1st The trend didn’t stop as the game continued. By halftime, the Bulls had 14 penalties for 115 yards and Illinois had 12 for 110 yards. The second half was much smoother, but this is embarrassing for a top 25 team.
- First quarter offense problems….again.
Read all this other stuff above. Nuff said. Wait until they play someone decent.
- Again, Darius Tice needs to be featured more.
Illinois could not stop this guy. He channeled Tampa legend Mike Alstott with his physical running between the tackles, including a 10-yard touchdown run in which he carried a defender into the end zone. Even on plays he should have been taken down behind the line or at the line of scrimmage, he kept powering for positive yards.
- Flowers might have a future as a NFL running back.
This guy turns on a dime and has an outstanding cut move. I can’t see him as a QB at the next level. Then again, BJ Daniels somehow was on a pro roster for 4 years before converting to running back in 2017.
- Herd of Thunder.
My gratuitous grading of the band. For anyone who was in a marching band, they played most of their music in warmup arcs. The last song was in a modified warmup arc in front of the student section. Even with losing some practice due to the storm, you can’t be this far behind. FAIL.
- Jeff George sighting.
Just kidding. It was Jeff George Jr. The redshirt sophomore came in during the second half after Illinois was out of it and when given a little time, was able to make some very good throws, but he also had some really off ones too. His touchdown pass in the 4th was a difficult throw to make.
Lots of yards.
Even though the Bulls struggled to score early, they were accumulating a lot of yards. South Florida ended up with 680 yards, the 5th time they eclipsed 600 yards of offense in a game and 2nd most all time. Flowers, Tice, and D’Ernest Johnson all hit at least 100 yards rushing the ball. This is the second time in program history 3 players ran for 100 yards in the same game. Coach Charlie Strong pulled Flowers out of the game in the 4th quarter before he could hit the 300-yard passing mark.
“Something is bigger than football and you have a football team to worry about. That was my concern.” Coach Charlie Strong on how he dealt with the team and Hurricane Irma.
“When you look at the first two games that we played and then tonight, it was a major step forward for us cause offensively, we haven’t produced.” Coach Charlie Strong on the improvement of the offense.
“The offensive line did a great job this week. They opened up a lot of holes and we had 700 yards of offense. You know, that all starts up front.” Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the impact of the performance of the offensive line.