TAMPA, Fla. —- The 2013 football season at the University of South Florida is just two weeks old and all ready the Bulls find themselves at a crossroad.
With an overall record of 0-2, this weekend’s game against Florida Atlantic University surprisingly is now an important game for the Bulls. The game will be played this Saturday night in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium beginning at 7 p.m.
The good news for the Bulls, is that the Owls are also winless in two games and are struggling with their offense and putting points up on the board, just like the Bulls.
There is a total of 123 NCAA Football teams playing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
After two games, the Bulls are averaging 248.5 yards of total offense and that is good for 117th in the country and the Bulls are averaging just 13.5 points which is 113th in the entire NCAA.
The Owls are not in any better shape offensively than the Bulls, the Owls are averaging just 9.5 points a game which is good enough for 119th only three programs have scored less than the Owls and the Owls offense is averaging 266 of total yards after just couple of games.
Florida Atlantic University football coach Carl Pelini says that the Owls are getting better but he also understands that his squad is a work in progress and that the Owls fans need to be patient.
“No doubt we are better football team, we still have a long way to go but our players are committed, our coaches are committed and we will keep moving forward,” Pelini said.
The Owls’ offense work within a two-quarterback system, Pelini says that the two quarterback system helps in getting his quarterbacks in the system some valuable experience.
“When you start slow there is a certain level of frustration,” Pelini said. “Some of the mistakes were on the quarterback but some were on the receivers-the depth of the routes. When you are inexperience up front and at quarterback-it is a tough chore.”
University of South Florida football coach Will Taggart said after the Bulls 21-6 loss at Michigan State University, that the defense played a much better game against the Spartans than against McNeese State University.
The Bulls defense gave up 265 yards of total offense to the Spartans, forced seven punts and created two turnovers.
“We had five, six, seven hats to the ball every time,” Taggart said about his defense against the Spartans. “More than anything, those guys played with an attitude and they ran to the football.”
The Bulls defense executed University of South Florida defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan game plan, they got to the ball better recording five tackles for losses, five quarterback hurries and limiting the passing game to just 94 yards.
Leading the Bulls defense senior linebacker DeDe Lattimore, he was asked by Taggart to increase his leadership by being more physical and vocal during practice and during the game.
Just like the Owls, the Bulls running game is competitive which means if either team can get the running game establish, that team can could control the tempo of the game.
Taggart will be looking toward Marcus Shaw to be able to get into and through the gaps, up into the second-tier of the Owls’ defense and to keep the offense on the field.
Shaw played the much bigger against the Spartan defensive line and linebackers, a strong performance. He ran the ball 23 times for 94 yards. He did not have a pass reception against the Spartans but against McNeese State University he made five catches for 47 yards.
“I was very motivated, I watch their defense in the film room,“ Shaw said about his preparation against the Spartans. “Blocking number 40 (Spartan’s linebacker Max Bullough)was the big key for us.”
Shaw will all ways be remembered for the first play of the first game against the Cowboys when he went through the middle for an 80-yard touchdown run.
If the Bulls want to have success with the running game, then obviously the improvement of the execution from the offensive line needs to happen-now!
The ability to establish the running game will also help the quarterback and the passing game.
If the Bulls’ offense can establish the tempo of the game it will be up to Lattimore and the rest of the defense to shut down the two-prong running game and the duel quarterback system that the Owls deploy.
The Owls running game is led by quarterback Jaquez Johnson and tailback Jonathan Wallace.
Johnson is completing 58 percent of his passes and so far this season he has ran for 69 yards for the Owls.
Wallace this season has carries the ball just 20 times for the Owls gaining 78 yards with no touchdowns.
Pelini says his offensive line will be tested every game and he knows that time on the field playing together as a unit is important to the confidence of a young offensive line.
“The offensive line will only get better as we go through the season,” Pelini said. “There are things we can improve upon upfront to make our offense more competitive.”
The Bulls game plan against the Owls will be simple enough, get good play from the offensive line, establish a strong running game with Shaw and stop the Owls offense and the result will be enough to celebrate a USF victory.
A win against Florida Atlantic University this Saturday night will straighten out any curves that the Bulls’ bus has to navigate through and leave the crossroad behind in the dust.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.