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Strong suggests execution, not scheme, stifled Bulls

Despite some offensive play-calling that elicited boos, USF coach Charlie Strong said the Bulls scored enough points to beat Houston.

If USF is planning any type of offensive shakeup in the wake of Saturday's 28-24 loss to Houston, Charlie Strong isn't telling.

But based on his comments Monday during the American Athletic Conference weekly coaches teleconference, he seems intent on maintaining the status quo, and just executing it better.

When asked if he feels the need to diversify his power-based offense, Strong said, "I mean, offensively we were able to score points. We've just got to get off the field on defense. We scored enough points to win, we were up 7-0 at the half and let the other team score 28 points.

"It's not just one thing, it's all phases."

USF finished with a season-low 137 rushing yards on 55 carries (2.49 yards per carry). On the Bulls' final scoring drive, resulting in a field goal, the Bulls had first-and-15 from the Cougars 24, but opted for three consecutive runs that netted 11 yards.

Additionally, USF ran the ball 23 of 36 times on first down, totaling 22 yards on those runs.

"It's just executing," Strong said. "You've got to block guys, we just didn't get enough hats on the bodies."

Houston coach Major Applewhite acknowledged his defense's objective basically was to load the box and force USF to beat the Cougars through the air.

"A lot of it really was, yes, you've got to stop the run game," Applewhite said on the teleconference.

"(Darius) Tice and D'Ernest (Johnson) are great players, as is Quinton (Flowers). They run the ball well, and not to (discount) (WR Marquez) Scantling and the other guys, because…they made plays outside.

"But it was really to keep everything in front of us and try to eliminate the huge, explosive plays outside and then try to tackle the run game inside."

ATTENDANCE SPIKE, THEN SWOON: Two weeks after the largest home crowd of the season turned out for the homecoming game, a hearty segment of that group — most of it students — stayed away Saturday.

Actual attendance for the Houston game was 22,417, according to the Tampa Sports Authority. Several factors played against USF including dreary weather, a Lightning home game and a starting kickoff (3:45 p.m.) that went head-to-head with Penn State-Ohio State and Florida-Georgia.

The homecoming game against Cincinnati drew an actual crowd of 38,121, USF's best for a home game against a non-Power Five opponent since 2011.

ODDS AND ENDS: USF's game Saturday at Connecticut kicks off at 3:30, and will be televised on ESPNU. … Bulls DT Deadrin Senat, who had a career game against Houston (12 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks), made the AAC's weekly honor roll. … Houston sophomore QB D'Eriq King, who came off the bench to total 220 yards (and account for three TDs) in the upset, was named AAC Offensive Player of the Week. Applewhite said the Cougars had a package in place for King if Houston struggled early. He entered after the Cougars totaled 4 yards on their first two possessions.