Bull dozers: USF falls asleep but beats Tulsa

by Gary Shelton on November 17, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Auggie Sanchez had 14 tackles to become USF's all0-time leader./CARMEN MANDATO

Auggie Sanchez had 14 tackles to become USF's all-time leader./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 2 a.m.

Sanchez sacks the Tulsa quarterback./CARMEN MANDATO

Sanchez sacks the Tulsa quarterback./CARMEN MANDATO

Oh, I get it. The plan was to make Central Florida overconfident.

That, and to get a good night's sleep while waiting.

The University of South Florida Sleepwalkers set up next week's gigantic showdown with UCF Thursday night, midnight-strolling their way to a 27-20 victory. It was 21-7 after one quarter, and the Bulls nodded off to dream of McKenzie Milton and the boys.

Bull dozers. Right? Somnam-Bull=ists.

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Strong was pleased with a 21-7 first-quarter lead./CARMEN MANDATO

Strong was pleased with a 21-7 first-quarter lead./CARMEN MANDATO

It took a stop with 27 seconds to play at their own 30 before South Florida won.

Coming into the game, Tulsa was 2-8 and had given up 40 points or more six times. Yet, USF took the quick lead, then settled back like bystanders. If the defense hadn't held Tulsa to three points in the second half, it might really have gotten hairy.

Tice scored on a 54-yard run./CARMEN MANDATO

Tice scored on a 54-yard run./CARMEN MANDATO

Consider: The Bulls rushed for 229 yards on the night, but they had 154 of those in the first quarter. In the last three quarters, USF ran for 75 yards, while quarterback Quinton Flowers hit seven of 21 passes for 67 yards.

"It was a tale of two halves," USF coach Charlie Strong said, although he kind of fudged the second quarter when the Bulls were outscored 10-3. "In the first half, we moved the ball up and down the field on them. In the second half,we didn't run it as well and we missed some throws."

Flowers hit only seven of 21 after the first quarter./CARMEN MANDATO

Flowers hit only seven of 21 after the first quarter./CARMEN MANDATO

That has happened more and more lately. In three of their last four games, the Bulls have won by six, lost by four and won by seven. Gone are the days when they scored 30, it seemed, by the time the National Anthem was finished.

If the Bulls play the way they did in the last three quarters, they might have trouble hanging with UCF, one of the better stories across the nation. If they play the way they did in the first quarter, it should be close.

In the first half, it was the Bulls' defense that had the bigger problems, however. De'Angelo Brewer rushed for 163 yards on the night for Tulsa.

Johnson had 79 of his 84 yards in the first half./CARMEN MANDATO

Johnson had 79 of his 84 yards in the first half./CARMEN MANDATO

Flowers got off to a good start, with two touchdown passes in the first quarter and 75 yards passing. But he sputtered afterward, and Tulsa kept USF on the ropes.

"I would say we just weren’t executing," said Flowers.

Strong was asked if next week's game might have had an affect on this week's game:

"They hear so much about it," Strong said." So much has been said and everyone has written about it. We're going to find out next week how much it affected us."

Love sacks Tulsa's quarterback./CARMEN MANDATO

Love sacks Tulsa's quarterback./CARMEN MANDATO

Linebacker Auggie Sanchez set a record for USF with 14 tackles, including three for loss.

Flowers had 124 yards rushing, his 17th 100-yard day.

On the night, USF scored touchdowns on three straight possessions. But their next 10 possessions led to only two field goals. It all leads you to wonder: Has a team ever won and fallen out of the top 25?

“We won the football game," Strong said. "We played a team that ... a lot of people look at games like this and say 'you should blow them out.' You have

Saloman caught a 35-yard touchdown pass./CARMEN MANDATO

Salomon caught a 35-yard touchdown pass./CARMEN MANDATO

to give other teams credit. I thought they were a pretty good team. They had a good running back. You're happy you won a game, but you still have mistakes that are correctable. We'll see how much we can learn from this one and get ready for that one."

Still, you play a 2-8 team virtually dead-even game for three quarters, it's hard to

McGee makes a form tackle on Brewer./CARMEN MANDATO

McGee makes a form tackle on Brewer./CARMEN MANDATO

praise them. USF has sputtered for several games now.

Next week, there will be no respite. The Bulls win, or their season is a disappointment. In a rivalry game, where two teams enter with one defeat, and there is no other way. This one, they won't grade on the curve.

"Our guys understand what’s at stake," Strong said, "We’ve just got to continue to play well and we just need to put together a complete game, which we haven’t done yet."

For Thursday night, Strong was pleased with his seniors, who have gone 20-3 their last two seasons.

"Usually when you take over a program where they won 11 games, a lot of times there’s going to be a lot of resentment," Strong said. "There’s going to be some guys who think they’re better than what they are and they don’t want to listen to you. But this group never did. The reason why they didn’t was because of the two leaders. With Auggie and with Q, they bought into it... This group never made it about themselves. The only thing this group did is they went to work each and every game.”

One more, and you can decide whether this is a keeper year.

Game time is Friday at 3:30 p.m. at USF.

McCants tightropes his way down the sideline for a touchdown./CARMEN MANDATO

McCants tightropes his way down the sideline for a touchdown./CARMEN MANDATO

 

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