Whenever a new coach joins a program, there is always a period of adjusting. The team’s potential falls short. Charlie Strong and the University of South Florida football team are no exceptions to this adjusting period.
After a sluggish start full of mistakes, miscues, and spotting San Jose State 16 first quarter points, the No. 19 Bulls found their stride in the second quarter en route to a 42-22 season opening win. Quinton Flowers passed for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns while D’Ernest Johnson added another pair of touchdowns. It took the big play to spring the Bulls as Flowers scored on a 48-yard pass to Terni Alaka and Johnson scored on a 50-yard run to put the Bulls comfortably in the lead.
After scoring 28 points in the second quarter, the Bulls only managed two second half touchdowns. The second half showed that it will take a big for Charlie Strong and Bulls to get on the same page. It is not for the lack of talent with Flowers behind center. Replacing running back Marlon Mack and wide receiver Rodney Adams is not going to be easy. While the Bulls have Johnson and Darius Tice in the backfield and Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Darnell Salomon lined up wide, it will take some time for them and the coaching staff to develop chemistry.
The expectations for the Bulls are very high. Many pundits have predicted them to run the table and go 12-0 on their way to an American Athletic Conference championship, which would be their first conference title in school history. The AAC is banking on South Florida running the table as the conference selected them to win the conference. If this happens, then South Florida would most likely be the conference’s representative in of the top bowl games (New Year six).
South Florida’s problem is their schedule. With San Jose State, Stoney Brook, Illinois, and UMass as their out of conference scheduled opponents, it will require the Bulls to win and win big in each of these games. Defeating San Jose State by only 20, which fell just short of the Vegas line of 21, along with showing streaky play against a team that won only four games last year, is not going to help convince voters to keep the Bulls highly ranked.
The team’s four non-conference opponents combined for a 6-28 record against FBS teams in 2016 and have already started 0-2 in 2017 as UMass blew a fourth quarter lead in the last minute to lose at home against Hawaii.
Next up for the Bulls are the Stony Brook Seawolves. Stony Brook is coming off a 5-6 2016 campaign, which included a 38-0 loss to Temple last year. South Florida represents the only FBS school the Seawolves will play in 2017 and Stony Brook represents the only FCS school the Bulls will play as well.
Stony Brook at South Florida will be played on Saturday, September 2 at 4pm and can be viewed on ESPN3.