Sunday, February 18, 2018
Colleges

South Florida Bulls need more offense than QB B.J. Daniels

TAMPA

They are intricate things, game plans. They are the result of study, thought and experience. They are the intersection of creativity, matchups and circumstance, and if you listen closely enough during their construction, sometimes you can occasionally hear a coach cry out "Eureka!"

In the case of the USF Bulls, the result of such deep thought ends up being a game plan reading like this:

Hey, let's give the ball to B.J. Why, he'll bail us out.

And so goes the plan of attack at USF: B.J. Daniels runs to the left, then B.J. Daniels runs to the right, then B.J. Daniels throws over the top. If things go just right, and if the opponent commits a sufficient amount of penalties, who knows? Maybe it leads to another field goal.

Next series? Ditto.

The series after that? Re-ditto.

Just asking here, but is this really the plan? And if it is, is this offense really good enough for the Bulls to fight their way into contention in the Big East race?

Really?

Say what you will about Thursday night's 23-13 loss to Rutgers. It was disappointing because you had seen this game before, on this day of the week and against this Big East opponent. But this time it wasn't about just that. This time it was about the play not being good enough and the plan not being sound enough.

Tough combination, that.

Familiar frustration, this.

Until the Bulls can prove they are good enough and versatile enough, this is how big games are going to go. USF is now 4-11 in the Big East under coach Skip Holtz. Playing at home they are 1-8 against BCS opponents.

This isn't a knock on Daniels, who was the only reason this game was tied in the fourth quarter. The senior quarterback is off to a fabulous start this season, including that miracle-in-the-desert performance against Nevada last week. He threw three interceptions Thursday, but two of those came after the ball bounced off the fingertips of his receivers.

That said, there is such a thing as relying too much on one player.

To ask it another way: In the third year under Holtz, shouldn't this offense have a few other options to it?

Consider this: Of the Bulls' 62 offensive plays, 48 were designed for Daniels (33 passes, 15 runs). That's asking a lot of one player. On one series early in the game, seven of eight plays were designed for him. On another, four of five. On yet another, six of eight. And so on.

"There was a lot on him," said Holtz. "We just weren't able to run the ball. We had to match their aggressiveness out front, and I don't think we matched it. I don't think we played as physical up front as we need to, and you put an awful lot on our quarterback."

For crying out loud, no one denies Daniels is the lead singer around here. But shouldn't someone else handle a song every now and then?

The easy answer is so far the Bulls simply do not do enough other things well on offense. They don't block well enough, and they don't run well enough, and yes, it is fair to suggest they have not been coached well enough. Consider: Except for Daniels, USF ran the ball 14 times for 27 yards. As Bulls go, that's a fairly quiet stampede.

Yeah, that's why the ball is in Daniels' hands so much. Right now the Bulls aren't good enough to have a chance any other way.

That's a tough way to play. If Daniels has a series or two when he isn't sharp — there was one span in the fourth quarter when USF was down by three and Daniels missed six out of seven passes — then the end zone looks like distant country.

This shouldn't be a mystery. Good offenses can attack an opponent with a lot of different weapons. Every now and then they can wear down an opponent by pounding it.

The Bulls? They have Daniels. Today they have disappointment.

Until USF has more than the first, they seem destined to feel more of the second.

Gary Shelton can be heard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays on 98.7-FM The Fan.

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