USF-Florida: Ten late observations off replay
We've written a lot about USF's 38-14 loss at Florida on Saturday, but as the Bulls get their normal day off this week, I had time to watch the game again, with a few things I didn't get to write about on deadline back in Gainesville.
-- As much as Demetris Murray's fumble in the Florida red zone was arguably the turning point of the game, the biggest near-miss for the Bulls might have been safety Jon Lejiste's blitzing sack of John Brantley early in the third quarter, which forced a fumble that was recovered by the Gators on their 17-yard line. There were three Bulls around the ball, and had the Gators not recovered, it would have set the Bulls up with a rare short field and a chance for a go-ahead touchdown. Lejiste, playing with one hand in a cast, had a great all-around game.
-- USF found great success off its rare use of the option, including a 21-yard run by Lindsey Lamar on the opening drive and a nice keeper by B.J. Daniels when Joel Miller was working as the potential pitch. The Bulls use a nifty semi-circle motion to send the runner wide on the option route, and Todd Fitch said they call that the "orbit motion." It's a good use for Lamar, allowing him to get his speed to the perimeter much like a screen pass without that initial contact at the line of scrimmage. Lamar also fared well on kickoff returns, totaling 87 yards on his three returns, including a 39-yarder.
-- Speaking of which, I thought the screen play to the running back was noticeably missing from USF's offense after it worked so well against Stony Brook. That was the intended play on Daniels' interception at the end of the first half, so it's understandable that USF wouldn't go back to it. Against a team lacking Florida's defensive speed, it's something that should work well for the Bulls, especially with Murray and Plancher.
-- It's impressive to me that USF's defense has just two penalties in its first two games -- Mark Joyce had a personal foul in the opener, and Jacquian Williams had a questionable 15-yarder at the end of a gang-tackle against the Gators. The starting offensive line has yet to commit a penalty (Jeremiah Warren had a hold that was offset) -- but half the penalties have been false starts: two each from backup tackle Damien Edwards and tight ends Kevin Gidrey and Jeff Hawkins and one from backup center Kevin McCaskill.
-- I think it's telling how well senior Mistral Raymond is playing at cornerback because of how much the Gators threw at Quenton Washington throughout Saturday's game. And I think the Bulls have their starting three linebackers in Sam Barrington, DeDe Lattimore and Jacquian Williams. The other three -- Mike Lanaris, Sabbath Joseph and Donte Spires -- combined for just two tackles Saturday, while the starting three had 18. On the Gators' first touchdown, Lanaris was mismatched in the middle trying to cover UF receiver Carl Moore.
-- How good were B.J. Daniels' moves on the option reads on the first drive? I saw one play where both the sideline camera and the end-zone camera followed Mo Plancher instead of sticking with Daniels. USF sent out a great stat on Daniels, noting that he's only the second quarterback to rush for 100 yards against Florida since Tommie Frazier went for 199 in the Fiesta Bowl after the 1995 season. (I was at that game, and it's still one of the most dominating performances I can recall from a running QB.)
-- I thought Andre Ware had some very smart things to say about the challenges of reining in a young quarterback, that every play doesn't have to be a home run. That's something Skip Holtz has said as well, and something Daniels needs to learn. On the interception that was returned by UF's Justin Trattou for a touchdown, Daniels had scrambled back so far that his pass was picked off 13 yards behind the line of scrimmage -- even if he'd connected with a receiver, it might have been for a loss.
-- One interesting aspect of the Gators' best play, the 62-yard touchdown run by Jeff Demps, was that UF used an unbalanced line, with both tackles on the left side and just a tight end outside the guard on the opposite side. With two dominant blockers to clear a path, Demps was able to get to the sideline, hurdling Lejiste and then following two blockers to the end zone. As much as the play was seen as illustrating Demps' speed, it was a clever formation to establish the line of scrimmage, something Florida hadn't done well.
-- One more note on Demps, who has earned a reputation as perhaps the fastest player in college football -- on that screen pass down the USF sideline that was called back because of the hold downfield on Jerrell Young, Barrington got a good angle and caught up to Demps from behind. Asked if he'd done it after the game, Barrington smiled and said I was mistaken and must be thinking of one of his teammates.
-- The coaches can't say enough about defensive end David Bedford, who had five tackles and seemed to be in the right place all the time. On one third-and-long play where USF clearly had anticipated a screen play, Bedford had an open path to the quarterback but stayed with his assignment, covering Demps in traffic at the line of scrimmage. They won't have nearly the fanfare of George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, but the Bulls have two strong ends in Bedford and fellow senior Craig Marshall, who had six tackles Saturday.
-- I think this is 11, but I see sophomore Danous Estenor pushing for more and more playing time -- he got in during the first quarter Saturday and seemed to play well, especially in run-blocking. He may have logged as many snaps as starting guards Chaz Hine and Jeremiah Warren, and he and Mark Popek are nearly extensions of the starting line in terms of playing time and playing quality.
-- One more note -- Fitch said one reason why the Bulls burned a silly time out with one second left in the first quarter was that USF's coaches had communication issues with headsets going out for the second game in a row. The Bulls could have used that time out at the end of the half, but it sounds like technical difficulties contributed to the awkward time out. We'll have more later tonight from conversations with the coordinators and Holtz. ...