In Friday night’s opener against Big Ten perennial contender Wisconsin, the Bulls had suffered their worst loss in program history and left fans wondering what has caused such a downward spiral in the program over the last year and a half? And in a 49-0 loss, its hard to tell which side of the ball is a bigger struggle for the South Florida program?
While both looked alarmingly bad, the lack of offense was the ultimate reasoning behind the shut out, which led coordinator Kerwin Bell to taking full responsibility when speaking to the media on Wednesday.
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) September 4, 2019
“I’m the OC so I take all the blame, that’s all on my shoulders,” said Bell. “I’ve been in that position before, I’ve been shut out before, it didn’t feel good and surely last Friday night didn’t also. I was very disappointed in our performance. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Bell offered somewhat of an explanation as to why the team came out looking so ill-prepared and resembling every bit the team that lost their final six games last season. He said it’s the style of offense he’s introducing and that it takes time to get a team fully acclimated to it, which is not a new feat for him.
“This system is a little bit different than what everybody runs in college football, it’s more of a pro style. A lot of thinking, a lot of going through progressions and receivers changing their route on the run,” he added, “It takes a little bit of time and I’ve incorporated this thing 3 or 4 times now in new systems and we’ll be able to handle it. We’ll get up to speed, we just need some success with it.”
Bell also touched on the absence of USFs star slot receiver Johnny Ford. While there’s been no explanation to why he sat out of last weekends game, the Bulls play-caller did say that having him back will free up the rest of the offense in a major way.
“Johnny missing the game was big for us. We had a lot stuff on him to handle some of their man coverages. He’s a great man beater for us. With him being out it really put a lot of extra emphasis on other guys and he really frees up the team because he’s got so much ability running and catching the football.”
Bell, as head coach, led Valdosta State to an unbeaten season this past year and the Division II national championship. His offense at Valdosta led the nation in scoring (52.0 ppg), ranked second in first downs (341) and was fourth in total offense (523.9 ypg), red-zone offense (.901) and pass efficiency (167.37).
He has been around the block, coaching at various levels of college ball plus the CFL and high school. In addition to his many stops along the way as a coach, he also carved out a professional playing career which lasted over a decade.
Although he may have a history of offensive success, he’ll have a short timeline to start seeing success under head coach Charlie Strong or it may be a foregone conclusion before USF ever begins American Conference play, that this will be Strong’s final year and would likely Bells, as well.
USF has another opportunity to impact AAC Title game
While the Bulls chances of seeing a conference championship game ended nearly as soon as the season got underway, they still have an opportunity to make an impact on who will be playing for the title. This past weekend, USF nearly took down Cincinnati, the front runners of the AAC East.
Now, on Saturday, they’ll have their shot at the AAC West top team, as they take on Memphis at home.
Memphis, ranked 18 on the AP poll this week, enters into the game after a huge win against Houston. Sitting at 9-1 for the season, they’re coming in with a lot to play for with SMU and Navy on their heels for the top spot of the American West.
USF comes off of a heartbreaking near upset against the Bearcats, allowing them to rally from 10-point first-half deficit, to then take the game on a 37 yard game winning field goal with no time left.
However, the loss may have done more good than harm for the South Florida Bulls, as it’s given them confidence to compete with the top teams in the conference and some standout play from their freshman QB, Jordan McCloud who threw for a career-high 267 passing yards.
The end result didn't go our way, but there were still positives to come from Saturday night, including a career-high 267 passing yards from Jordan McCloud and another fumble recovery by the defense, giving us at least one takeaway in all 10 games this season. pic.twitter.com/010zsIRUDG
— USF Football (@USFFootball) November 18, 2019
The Bulls had raced out to a 10 – 0 lead early, being led by McCloud (photo above). USF went 71 yards in just eight plays on their opening drive, as Trevon Sands scored on a four yard run to make it 7-0. Freshman kicker Spencer Shrader made it 10-0 with a 28 yard field goal later in the second quarter.
USF’s defense continued in their solid efforts this season. They only allowed a measly 78 yards passing and had five sacks. Unfortunately they couldn’t keep the pressure up in the second half, and the Bearcats rally was led on the ground by Michael Warren II who tallied 134 yards and a TD. Cincy rushed for 200 yards as a team.
Memphis is the clear favorite, however, head coach Mike Norvell does not believe that the trip to Tampa is going to be a cakewalk.
"The last two weeks, they've had unbelievable battles. This is a team that has talent. They are one of the best defenses in our conference. They are playing with a young quarterback that has all of the talent in the world."#GoTigersGo
— Memphis Football (@MemphisFB) November 18, 2019
And while moral victories are certainly not what you want to be playing for at this point in the season, the Bulls have the chance to not only make their presence felt in the conference and potentially dethrone the American West leader, but reclaim the “War on I-4” title against UCF the following week.
Cincinnati last second field goal capped rally over USF
The USF Bulls did a lot of things right on Saturday night, but could not finish off 17th ranked Cincinnati. And, the Bearcats rallied for a clutch eighth consecutive win, 20 – 17.
Bearcats senior kicker Sam Crosa (above) booted a 37 yard game winning field goal with no time left, as Cincinnati rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit to improve to 6 – 0 on the American Conference season.
Crosa, who won the Bearcats games at East Carolina two weeks ago with no time left, capped an 11 play 60 yard drive in the final minute and a half of the game. That came on the heels of USF freshman kicker Spencer Shrader having missed from 32 yards out on a kick that would have allowed the Bulls to re-take the lead.
Shrader had three other costly misses in the game- all in the first half, including a 43-yarder as time ran out.
The Bulls had raced out to a 10 – 0 lead early, being led by freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud. USF went 71 yards in just eight plays on their opening drive. Trevon Sands scored on a four yard run to make it 7-0. Shrader made it 10-0 with a 28 yard field goal later in the second quarter.
USF’s defense only allowed a measly 78 yards passing and had five sacks. But, the Bearcats rally was led on the ground by Michael Warren II who tallied 134 yards and a TD. Cincy rushed for 200 yards as a team.
Cincinnati keeps its hopes alive for a potential “New Year’s Six bowl game, as they are the highest-ranked “Group of Five” conference team, currently at 17th in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Bearcats control their own destiny needing only to win their remaining two games, and they will host the American Championship game on December 7th.
With the loss, USF drops to 4 – 6 on the season and the debate about whether third-year coach Charlie Strong will keep his job continues. The Bulls have lost 12 of their last 16 games dating back to last season. They must win both of their remaining games with Memphis and UCF to go to a bowl game.
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