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Jones: USF fun to watch, but not enough are watching

USF linebacker Auggie Sanchez tackles running back Arkeel Newsome in the second quarter.
USF linebacker Auggie Sanchez tackles running back Arkeel Newsome in the second quarter.
Published Oct. 16, 2016

TAMPA — Crazy world, this college football.

Let's review. Louisville crushes Florida State, then loses to Clemson. Then Clemson storms the field — embarrassingly so — Saturday after beating N.C. State, which only happened because N.C. State can't kick field goals.

North Carolina upsets FSU, then gets annihilated by Virginia Tech, but comes back to beat Miami. Miami almost beat FSU. FSU beat USF. The same USF that crushed Syracuse, which beat … Virginia Tech.

Crazy. And that pretty much sums up things over at USF these days.

How 'bout them Bulls?! USF is bowl bound after Saturday night's 42-27 victory against UConn. Catch that? Bowl bound. It's not even Halloween yet. Now that's crazy.

A year ago, USF coach Willie Taggart was this close to getting fired. Now Bulls fans have to be worried that he's a couple of wins away from leaving for LSU or North Carolina or Southern California or some other bigger school this offseason.

Taggart has gone from being on the hot seat to being a hot name in college football — from nearly run out of town to Runnin' It Up Willie. He has turned into our version of Jim Harbaugh — kicking rears, taking names, running up scores and offering no apologies while doing it.

No running it up Saturday. This game was closer than the score indicated and much closer than expected. But, it was a win.

With it, the Bulls are not only headed to a bowl game, they are very much in the running for a shot at the American Athletic Conference championship. They might even be ranked any second now.

And not only are they good, they're fun to watch.

Take Saturday. First play on offense, the school's all-time leading rusher, Marlon Mack, darted around, turning a sure loss into a scintillating 21-yard gain. Then quarterback Quinton Flowers, trapped in the backfield, somehow juked out of trouble and zig-zagged 54 yards for a touchdown.

Soon there was dancing — literal dancing — on the Bulls' sidelines.

This is the culture Taggart has created at USF and it is a joy to watch. Players dancing through defenses and on the sidelines. A fast-paced team that goes up-tempo on the field and gets down off of it.

Taggart has always been considered a good recruiter and you can see why. Kids want to play for him. Heck, I'd want to play for him. The Bulls' style of play is perfectly suited for players who want to go-go-go on offense. No huddles. Wacky formations. Lots of inventive passes. Plenty of intricate running.

No plodding here. No 3 yards and a cloud of dust. No thoughts given to time of possession. Get it. Run it. Throw it. Score. As much as you can.

Who doesn't want to play that kind of football?

On defense, the Bulls run around like crazy, looking for big plays and big hits. Sacks have become a staple. They had five on Saturday.

Even the punter on this team — Jonathan Hernandez — is special.

This is good football. Fun football to watch.

So how come no one watches it? Once again, the crowd for Saturday night's game was embarrassingly low. Maybe 20,000. Maybe.

Oh well. That's your loss because Saturday was fun.

Taggart will have plenty to harp on in the next few days, considering the Bulls turned the ball over four times and watched a 14-3 halftime lead quickly devolve into a 17-14 deficit less than four minutes into the second half. USF struggled a tad too much against a team it was favored to beat by three touchdowns.

Still. Those who watched saw Flowers rush for three touchdowns and throw two fourth-quarter touchdowns that proved to be the difference. Both Flowers and Mack rushed for more than 100 yards.

Fun game. No surprise. This is a fun team.

Why so many don't bother to watch is just, well, crazy.