Offensive line glad to 'carry it' for Bulls in win
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Another game without allowing a sack, another game with more than 200 rushing yards, and USF's offensive line continues to fortify its status as the Bulls' most consistent position this season.
"The offensive line is really to be commended, and Demetris Murray and B.J. Daniels, the guys who carried the bulk of the load in the running game," Holtz said. "We were able to run the ball. Even the last score, that was just running the ball up the middle, running the ball up the middle. Those guys were coming off the ball and making holes. At halftime, they were very emotional. It was 'Coach, put it on our backs. We'll carry it.' They wanted it, and I thought that offensive line and the running game did a great job."
As Syracuse continued to threaten to pull closer in the fourth quarter, USF's offense grinded out an 83-yard, nine-play drive that used up five minutes of clock time. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder recognized how much that sustained drive helped his defense out.
"They took the game and the clock and didn't put us in harm's way," Snyder said. "They did a tremendous job. It was a great team win. O-D-K. (Offense, defense, kicking)."
All this without leading rusher Darrell Scott, who missed the game with concussion-like symptoms. Murray stepped up with a career-high 17 carries for 86 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns to help the Bulls pull away.
"Meat's been a good player for us all year long," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "Just a steady football player, just a really good football player. The thing I worried about was how would (backup Marcus Shaw) react. We put Marcus in there a couple of times and he scored a touchdown, got that thing north-south."
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: USF's defense again struggled against the pass in the fourth quarter, allowing Syracuse to pile up 171 yards after being held to 234 in the first three quarters. That included a 58-yard touchdown pass to receiver Alec Lemon, leaving Holtz a reminder that the secondary remains a concern.
"We're a little bit frustrated right now with some of the pass defense, giving up the one long play we did, some of the coverages, some of the breakdowns, but when you give up 17 points and you're mad at your defense, that just tells you the expectation level we're building as a defensive football team," Holtz said.
BEND, DON'T BREAK: Syracuse came in as a strong red-zone offense, having scored on 85 percent of their trips inside the opposing 20. But three times in the fourth quarter, Syracuse got to the red zone and came away empty. The Orange got to the USF 2 but was stopped and missed on a fourth-and-goal from the 3, then went for it on the next drive on fourth down from the 17, missing again. The game ended with Syracuse at the USF 15, piling up yards but no points.
"We spend a lot of time in our red zone this week, giving them different looks than we had," Snyder said.
THIS AND THAT: USF is now 4-0 at the Carrier Dome, and since joining the Big East in 2005, the Bulls have eight road wins by 14 points or more. Half of those are in USF's four trips to Syracuse. ... B.J. Daniels had just one game in his first two seasons as starting quarterback in which he totaled 350 yards or more of total offense. He's now done it four times this season, including Friday's 371-yard effort. ... USF continues to struggle with penalties, committing 10 for 84 yards. Syracuse returned the favor, giving the Bulls four first downs on penalties in totaling seven flags for 86 yards.