A tough but predictable end to the USF 2018 football season happened Thursday night in Tampa. And, it was the final reminder of: not only where the Bulls were a year ago, but how much work there is to be done, if they want to get back to real relevancy.
When the Clock struck 0:00 at Raymond James Stadium to end the Gasparilla Bowl, the scoreboard read Marshall 38 USF 20. And, it was a sobering final defeat for the second season for Charlie Strong’s program.
Sobering, because USF became the first school in FBS history to win their first seven games and then lose out with six straight the rest of the way.
Sobering, because in the short-term, USF had a month to prepare for a game at home-in their home stadium, and yet, were completely outplayed in the first 30 minutes (above) falling behind 28 – 7.
Further so sobering, because their defense, which is supposed to be Strong’s forte’, was nowhere to be found for much of the night. This, as Marshall racked up 503 yards including 282 of them on the ground and pulled away.
And no, this was not a Power 5 program with big-time elite athletes. Yes, Marshall has a proven program out of Conference USA and this was their seventh straight Bowl win, by the way. However, it’s not a program littered with four and five star recruits. Yet, they ran over, around and past Bulls defenders all night.
As this video from Tampa Bay Times beat writer Joey Knight showed late Thursday evening, Strong looked shell-shocked and had very few answers about how far and quickly USF dropped off this season:
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) December 21, 2018
We can’t say at F.F.I. that we were surprised as USF’s free fall, as we were writing about how suspect the Bulls unbeaten record was looking every week all throughout September and early October. The Bulls were repeatedly playing poorly and beating bad teams, barely in the 4th quarter.
It obviously caught up to them, big time, when the better competition came around at the end of the year, and the Bulls never recovered.
So the Strong and his returning players head into the offseason, having gotten two or three really good recruits on the early signing day Wednesday. And, having some hope that they can put pieces together this spring and next summer to be ready for 2019.
However, even the most staunch supporters of the Green and Gold football program would have to admit: as much as they were jacked after a bowl win over Texas Tech last year and back-to-back 10 win seasons, this is the 180 degree exact opposite.
Six straight losses to end the year is a “cold water in the face” reality delivered one final time by the Marshall Thundering Herd.
There is a lot of work to do, beginning now.
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