Notes: Bulls overcame field position at FSU
Went back over the USF-FSU game Monday night, and what struck me most was how much USF overcame an overwhelming field position disadvantage throughout the game.
There's no place louder on the road then when a team is pinned deep in its own territory, and USF spent much of Saturday there at Doak Campbell. The Bulls ran 10 offensive plays inside their 10-yard line, including eight plays inside the 5 -- in all, there were 17 plays, more than a quarter of the Bulls' 63 total offensive plays, that came inside their 20.
FSU, by comparison, run only two of its 64 plays pinned inside its 20-yard line, and none deeper than its own 14.
B.J. Daniels' touchdown to Ben Busbee was the only red-zone snap USF until there were six minutes left in the game. FSU, of course, was the opposite, with 11 plays inside the USF 30 before the Seminoles got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
-- USF completed only eight passes Saturday, and the two long bombs got most of the attention, but Bulls receivers made two remarkable catches in the second half to help the Bulls run off more of the clock and protect the lead.
Facing a third down late in the third quarter, senior Colby Erskin made a leaping catch of a pass that was behind him to keep a drive going -- Erskin almost came down with a deep pass in the fourth as well. And A.J. Love's leaping, one-handed grab for 23 yards, immediately after FSU's touchdown, proved to be the longest offensive play of the second half for the Bulls.
-- If there's been an underwhelming area for USF, it could be punt returns -- take away Theo Wilson's 43-yard return in the fourth quarter against Wofford, and the Bulls have seen opponents punt 19 times, with USF totaling 18 yards on six returns from those punts.
Not fielding punts can be a bad thing -- it led to a special-teams turnover at Western Kentucky, and forced USF to start drives after punts from the 10, 5 and 3-yard lines against FSU. In USF's defense, FSU was deep enough in Bulls territory Saturday that USF didn't have a returner on one punt, and dropped safety Nate Allen back on another play after anticipating the Seminoles to go for it on fourth and short.
Sophomore Faron Hornes was a prolific returner in high school, and has one 21-yard return this season, but has net negative yardage on his other three returns. Syracuse has been stingy on opposing punt returns -- they've punt 22 times, but have allowed just five returns for 34 yards.
-- USF's defense teased a few new looks -- they had just three down linemen at one point on FSU's second drive, and used a five-man defensive line (Selvie, McCaskill, Grissom, McClain and Pierre-Paul) on the last three plays of their goal-line stand.
-- FSU's red-zone woes -- one score in four trips inside the USF 20 -- are all the more impressive when you consider that entering the game, FSU had 10 touchdowns and two field goals from 13 red-zone chances.
-- We pointed out Delbert Alvarado's touchdown-saving open-field tackle of FSU's Greg Reid -- yes, FSU scored two plays later, but the momentum wasn't as much as if Reid had taken the punt all the way. Alvarado had his best punts from inside the USF 5 -- a 57-yard career-best and a 43-yard kick that Reid took for a fair catch.
-- In addition to five sacks, USF's defensive line forced some key penalties from FSU's offensive line. Left tackle Andrew Datko was called twice for holding George Selvie on the same second-quarter drive, and the second flag negated a 42-yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter, a chop-block call on FSU's offensive line negated a 19-yard gain, at at time when the Seminoles would have moved into USF territory down seven points.
-- USF's offense struggled in the second half, mustering just 95 total yards, but Daniels' second interception wasn't a huge play. Facing a third-and-6 from the FSU 41, Daniels was intercepted at the FSU 23, which is to say there isn't much difference between that pick and a touchback after an incompletion. USF's defense stepped up, with Jason Pierre-Paul forcing Christian Ponder to fumble on the next play.
-- Headed to USF's weekly press conference -- writing a feature on Pierre-Paul for Wednesday, with lots more for later in the week, so keep checking back this afternoon ...