Just like that, Mike Ford is back ...
Lots of postgame thoughts. I always like trying to come up with a good chart to go with a game story, something that illustrates a point and can pop out in a box. Worked up one Saturday on Mike Ford, and how he had two great games, then disappeared for two months, then showed up again Saturday. Check this out:
Rush Yds TD Record
First 2 games 27 157 4 2-0
Next 7 games 37 143 3 4-3
Saturday 28 134 2 1-0
Before getting the fourth quarter off, Ford had at least one carry on all but two of USF's first 11 drives. Those two drives? A three-and-out (which started with first-and-19 because of a holding penalty) and Matt Grothe's first-down interception, the only turnover of the game. My question is this: if Ben Williams' ankle is healthy next week against Louisville, who do you start? Who gets more first-half carries?
-- Penalties. Sixteen today for USF, for 144 yards. No Big East team has had more than 12 in a conference game this season. No more than 116 yards. Don't blame the defense: four offsides calls, and a weird call on Richard Clebert for roughing the kicker on a third-down quick-kick call. Offense? The line had six of seven offensive flags, three by Ryan Schmidt, though he was out of position at left tackle much of the game. Four for 45 yards on special teams is a lot, but special teams still has issues.
-- Can't tell if this is USF's offense playing well or just Syracuse's defense being that bad, but the Bulls had eight drives that moved 48 yards or longer. Five drives of 10 or more plays. All this with only one offensive lineman playing in the same position he was last week. Line didn't give up a sack, but Syracuse averages less than one per game, so that's only so impressive.
-- Thought Matt Grothe did a really good job of knowing his limitations. At least three times, he threw the ball out of bounds to avoid a sack. That's something he just hasn't done. And he still went 15-of-22 -- that's nearly a 70 percent completion percentage. Still threw for 181 in three quarters, without really attempting a deep pass. It's crazy that 14 carries for him is a low number, but he had 22 against Cincy, 25 against UConn, 18 vs. Rutgers, so it is a low number.
-- A solid, consistent running game makes it so much easier for USF on third down. Bulls missed their first three third downs, needing 13, 26 and 18 yards for a first down. From there, USF converted seven of their next eight third downs. Because they were all third-and-short, needing 5, 6, 4, 1, 1, 4 and 10 yards, and missing on a third-and-6. Syracuse went 2-for-11 on third down. First five misses, they needed 25, 12, 9, 12 and 10 yards for first downs.
-- How about Aston Samuels' speed? Offensive coordinator Greg Gregory said the staff made the decision Wednesday to get Samuels involved in the offense, and you have to like the results. Gregory said he'd like to get Samuels reps at receiver, just so he's in a better position to be used in receiver formations like he was on his two end-arounds against Syracuse. Gregory needs to continue to find inventive ways to get Samuels the ball in the open field. Saturday's a great start.
-- It is staggering -- even as bad as Miami has been at times this season -- that the Hurricanes would lose 48-0 to anybody in the Orange Bowl. Miami won in Tallahassee, against a Florida State that beat Boston College in Boston. Miami is 5-5, and finishes at Virginia Tech and Boston College, two top 10 teams. So barring a huge upset, Miami isn't going bowling at all.
-- While I'm discussing other teams, Boston College could easily match USF's three-losses-after-being-No.-2 deal. The Eagles gave up 42 points to Maryland and now go ... into Clemson. California, No. 2 the week before USF, has now dropped four of its last five. Crazy thing about this weekend? Only four ranked teams lost.
-- I have to disagree with a statistical ruling from Saturday's game. The official book says Allen Cray had an interception. I say he had a fumble recovery. Cameron Dantley is going down and tries to throw a pass backwards -- a lateral, a live ball -- that ricochets off a teammate's helmet, going forward and into the arms of Cray. Had Cray not caught it, he could have picked it up and recovered it as a fumble. It's a tiny, negligible difference between a fumble and an interception, but I think I'm right. Agree? Disagree? Don't care?
-- A little basketball, just for variety. Stan Heath's team will play a game downtown at the St. Pete Times Forum, and that game will be Jan. 20 against West Virginia. Bob Huggins brings the Mountaineers to Tampa for a Sunday afternoon showdown. There had been discussions for as many as three games downtown, but the two sides agreed on this one game. Jose Fernandez's women's team will play at the Times Forum on Thursday against Duke, with Tennessee-Oklahoma right after.