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Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person

Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
Published Sep. 22, 2017


No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

The Bulls are 22-4 in their past 26 games and this is what they get for a nationally televised game? An announced attendance of 24,325?

If only Temple traveled better.

No matter. The USF defense showed up. And then some.

The offense did, too, when it wanted to be bothered.

RELATED: No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated.

The Bulls are rolling. Also, I have figured something out. Follow my math: If you score at least 30 points a game, which USF always does, and the other guys don't, well, you win every time.

USF is doing exactly what it needs to do, beating the chumps placed before it. But did you ever think we'd be talking about the USF defense leading the way and the offense taking a back seat?

First and foremost it was about beating Temple, which last season dashed USF's dreams of an AAC title with a 46-30 trampling that featured 319 rushing yards for the eventual conference champion.

Bulls coach Charlie Strong had his team locked down this week. USF players downplayed revenge.

ESPN analyst and former Bucs defensive lineman Booger McFarland, who worked Thursday's game, didn't buy it.

"When someone rushes for over 300 yards against you and shoves it down your throat, even with a new staff coming in, there's going to be an element of payback," McFarland said the day before the game. "One of the most gratifying things in football is for one man to move another man against his will. Temple moved USF all over the field that night. Regardless of the coaching staff, some of those players are still here. Trust me, payback is definitely on their minds."

RELATED: Record night for Bulls, QB Quinton Flowers.

Paid back in full.

The Bulls are 4-0 because they're far better than anyone they've faced thus far. That's not likely to change as the season goes on.

But the offense left points on the field. Dreary play-calling didn't help.

This was USF's conference opener. And open it did.

The Bulls delivered. The defense, often so awful last season, was in lockdown mode, with six takeaways, including two interceptions and a forced fumble by defensive back Deatrick Nichols and an interception and a fumble recovery by linebacker Nico Sawtelle.

Maybe no one on the Bulls' schedule can beat them. The lightweight schedule is almost a knock on USF at this point. The more it wins, the more people will point to who it's playing or not playing.

RELATED: USF defense feeds on Temple offense to take NCAA interceptions lead.

The offense could have been as focused as the defense Thursday. A week after putting up 680 yards on Illinois, it mucked around a little too much. Still put up 43. Kind of scary.

But the Bulls remain highly capable of pitching a perfect regular season. A look at the remaining schedule tells us that. A look at the defense Thursday told us that, too.

"I think the biggest improvement they made is defensively," McFarland said. "I think Charlie and (defensive coordinator Brian) Jean-Mary have played a big role in that, because they were terrible on defense last year."

All the same, USF extended its streak of scoring 30 points or more to a nation-leading 21 games.

"I think they can win every game," McFarland said. "I think they'll be in Big Six bowl as the best team in the Group of Five. And if they get the right matchup, they'll win a big bowl game."

If the defense keeps showing up, people might have to start showing up at USF games.

Well, let's not get carried away.


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