In an opening week of college football that had no shortage of weirdness, USF may have had, under the radar, the weirdest opening stretch out of everyone in the country.
Coming into the season, the hype was off the charts for the Bulls. They made a universally praised coaching hire in Charlie Strong, an ace recruiter who had deep ties to Florida, and returned a bunch of talent on both sides of the ball including arguably a top ten player in the country in QB Quinton Flowers.
The Bulls seemed primed to blow through their easy out of conference schedule and the rest of the AAC en route to a New Year’s Six bowl. Then came the weirdness.
Their first game was on the unofficial week zero, where they faced San Jose State, a middling Mountain West team that had recruited well in recent years but hadn’t quite put it together yet.
The Bulls got outscored 16-0 in the first quarter, amassing 22 total yards of offense and making some strange plays on defense and special teams, including a blocked punt where the upback just stood there, frozen in time as the SJSU defender blew by him on the way to the punter.
That’s just week zero though, right? Everyone has some kinks to work out, and USF seemed to work their way past it, outscoring SJSU 42-6 the rest of the way.
Fast forward a week, and USF is running off their home field of Raymond James Stadium at halftime to a chorus of boos, trailing FCS Stony Brook 10-7.
The previously-anemic Bulls offense once again stumbled to life in the second half, but this time they didn’t put away their overmatched opponent until late in the third quarter, when a goal-line interception put Stony Brook’s upset hopes out of reach.
USF rolls into East Hartford on Sunday with quite a bit of uncertainty. On one hand, they seemingly handled all of their early season jitters and should be a much more polished team when they play at Rentschler.
On the other hand, the Bulls struggled against bad teams in the first two weeks, and UConn may have a chance to catch them asleep at the wheel again.
The key to making sure that doesn’t happen is Quinton Flowers. Flowers had two unremarkable performances to start the season, but has had extraordinary success against UConn over the years, putting up 625 total yards and eight touchdowns in two career starts against the Huskies.
Flowers has some quality skill players to give the ball to as well, including senior RB D’Ernest Johnson, who’s a legit threat out of the backfield, catching 28 passes last year on 10.5 yards per catch. Redshirt senior Darius Tice has been more impressive this year however, with 151 yards through two games versus Johnson’s 114 yards.
Although the Bulls’ number one receiver Rodney Adams left for the draft last year, there is plenty of talent in their receiving core hoping to make an impression. Junior Tyree McCants has done just that in the first two games, becoming a legit deep threat for the Bulls with 96 receiving yards on just three catches.
Defense has been USF’s weak spot in the past few years, ranking in the bottom third of the league last year in yards per play, but that’s also the area where they have the most experience.
The Bulls return their best run defender, 305 lb. defensive tackle Deadrin Senat, their best pass rusher and linebacker Auggie Sanchez, and their best cover corner, Deatrick Nichols.
Luke Swanson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com