Defense, of all things, leads Bulls over Temple

by Gary Shelton on September 22, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Juwuan Brown attempts to stop Marchi from making  a pass./STEVEN MUNCIE

Juwuan Brown attempts to stop Marchi from making a pass./STEVEN MUNCIE

Friday, 5 a.m.

Once, they were Offense Inc.

Today, they are Defense, Unlimited.

In a few short months, it has been incredible to watch the transformation of the USF Bulls. Last year, they were a blur, running past everyone and leaving it to the defense to hang onto the ropes. Last year, they were a highlight film on offense. This year, they are a motorcycle gang in football cleats.

USF 43, Temple 7.

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Josh Black tackles Temple QB Logan Marchi./STEVEN MUNCIE

Josh Black tackles Temple QB Logan Marchi./STEVEN MUNCIE

The thing is, if you're judging USF by its usual standards, it was an unsightly game. The offense sputtered, settling for field goals five times. Quinton Flowers threw for only 96 yards (eight of 20).

Ah, but that rebuilt USF defense. It was something to see. A year after giving up 319

Quentin Flowers didn't have his best night, but  the Bulls won. /STEVEN MUNCIE

Quentin Flowers didn't have his best night, but the Bulls won. /STEVEN MUNCIE

rushing yards to Temple, the Bulls held the Owns to minus-four. Temple completed seven passes, but they had four passes intercepted. Temple managed only seven first downs. The Bulls intercepted four passes, and now lead the nation with 12. They had five sacks. They had 12 tackles for losses. Running back Ryquell Armstead had 210 yards agains the Bulls last year; he had three on Thursday night.

In other words, USF has shifted personalities over the last few months. You can grouse about the underperforming offense, or you can grin over the improved defense. Either way, the Bulls are undefeated.

It was a complete dismantling of a conference foe, one that beat up the Bulls physically a year ago. Still, this is USF, and as such, the opening questions were about the offense. Quinton Flowers, an outlier in the Heisman Trophy talk, was out of rhythm for much of the night. D'Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice – one again — had 100-yard rushing

Darius Tice looks the Temple defender in the eyes as he makes progress down the field./STEVEN MUNCIE

Darius Tice looks the Temple defender in the eyes as he makes progress down the field./STEVEN MUNCIE

days, but most of the Bulls' offense was about kicker Emilio Nadelman.

Which makes you wonder the silliest thing: Has USF become a defensive team?

For the time being, maybe. That may seem odd considering how many games the Bulls played last year when the opponent was in striking distance, but this year's team seems tougher and more focused.

“We play for each other,” said Deatrick Nichols, who had two interceptions. “We don't care who is getting the spotlight. We do the dirty work. We don't want the shine. That's for the offense. We're blue-collar guys.”

Coach Charlie Strong finally admitted that it was a bit of revenge game.

A bit?

Auggie Sanchez high fives with fans after the win./STEVEN MUNCIE

Auggie Sanchez high fives with fans after the win./STEVEN MUNCIE

“One-hundred percent,” said linebacker Auggie Sanchez. “When you go out there and see what they said (after last year's game), you're going to take those things personal.”

Sanchez said this had the makings of a solid defense. “You have guys who are sick and tired of losing, and we're putting more into it.”

The Bulls built a 20-0 lead in the first half on a 47-yard run by Tice and a 22-yard run by Flowers. But Temple cut the score to 20-7 on a sack-fumble by Jacob Martin.

No worries. The Bulls scored the final 23 points of the game. Temple built its rushing yardage to 11 at one point, but the Bulls knocked them back into the minus category.

“When you look at our personnel, we have three seniors up front, one at linebacker and three in the secondary. You're loaded on defense because of senior leadership, and they're trying to prove the point that they're pretty good. You have good chemistry and you play with a little passion and you run the ball, good things are going to happen for you.

“Defense is all about disruption. You have to be able to disrupt the rhythm of an offense… We made up our mind, let’s go pressure the quarterback. Let’s make the quarterback beat us. Last year, the running back had somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 yards, like 10 yards a carry, so we weren’t going to let them run the football. We were going to load the box.”

Will USF's offense ever blossom? Maybe, but Marlon Mack and Rodney Adams are gone. Teams stack the edges to prepare for Flowers.

Defense? That's something different. That's will and toughness, athleticism and faith.

“We can be a serious defense,” said Sanchez.

The Bulls travel to East Carolina on Sept. 30 for their next game.

D' Ernest Johnson gained more than 100  yards again./STEVEN MUNCIE

D' Ernest Johnson gained more than 100 yards again./STEVEN MUNCIE

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