South Florida has struggled to win both of their games against
Football Bowl Subdivision Division I-A opponents needing late, fourth quarter touchdowns to defeat both Florida International and Central Florida. This may give back some of the optimism Kansas fans forfeited after watching the Jayhawks struggle to beat Louisiana-Monroe at home and lose at Toledo.
I'll look at South Florida's offensive, defensive, and special teams stats today (all stats courtesy of cfbstats.com and for Division I-A games unless otherwise noted). News and notes regarding issues of health, eligibility, and strategy which will impact the game on September 23rd will follow later in the week.
South Florida has not run the ball effectively in either of their last two games gaining 123 yards (3.6 ypc) and 100 yards (2.6 ypc) against FIU and UCF respectively. Florida International has held all three of their opponents to less than 4 ypc on the ground. UCF's only other Division I-A opponent was Florida who predictably ran roughshod over the UCF defense (204 yds, 5.7 ypc). South Florida's run offense fared similarly to Villanova's (81 yards, 2.6 ypc) against UCF.
155 of South Florida's 223 rushing yards in the games against FIU and UCF were gained by freshman quarterback (#8) Matt Grothe. Sophomore (#30) Benjamin Williams leads South Florida running backs in rushing with 36 yards (on 14 carries) against I-A opposition.
Grothe struggled throwing the ball (15-28, 174 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT) in his first collegiate start against FIU, though his lone touchdown pass was the game-winner. He improved his numbers (22-32, 333 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT) significantly against UCF and again threw a game-winning touchdown pass. Grothe's improved numbers from his first start to his second may be credited to the respective defenses he faced. UCF allowed Florida 433 passing yards and four touchdowns on 38 attempts the week prior to the South Florida game whereas FIU has allowed their three Division I-A opponents to complete just 55% of their passes for less than 6 yards per attempt while intercepting five passes.
Grothe has spread the ball around to sophomore (#89) Taurus Johnson (9 receptions, 146 yds), senior (#80) Ean Randolph (7 rec, 135 yds, 1 TD), sophomore (#11) Marcus Edwards (6 rec, 49 yds, 1 TD), and sophomore LSU transfer (#6) Amp Hill (4 rec, 56 yds).
The numbers provide a mixed impression of South Florida's run defense. In Week 2, South Florida held FIU to 24 rushing yards on 31 attempts. FIU turned around and ran for 188 yards on 32 attempts with three TDs the next week in a narrow loss to Bowling Green and their heretofore stout run D.
In Week 3 the Bulls faced a Central Florida team that failed to crack three yards per carry against Villanova in their opener before rushing for less than one yard per carry the next week at Florida. UCF's run game, while no great shakes, showed marked improvement against South Florida gaining 140 yards and 4.1 yards per carry.
Senior SS (#33) Jeremy Burnett leads South Florida with 19 tackles (16 solo), followed by LBs (#59) Ben Moffitt, 18 tackles (8 solo), (#54) Patrick St. Louis, 17 tackles (14 solo) , and (#51) Stephen Nicholas, 16 tackles (9 solo). Tackle numbers all for all games.
South Florida has not been able to control both their opponent's running attack and passing attack in either of their matchups against Division I-A teams. While holding FIU to less than a yard per carry in Week 2, South Florida allowed the Golden Panthers to complete 60.6% of their passes at 7.2 yards per attempt. As a point of comparison, FIU, in their games at Middle Tennessee State and at home to Bowling Green, completed only 57.6% of their passes and gained 4.9 yards per attempt. FIU's only passing touchdown of the season came against South Florida.
In Week 3, as South Florida's run defense allowed 140 yards and over 4 yards per carry to UCF, the Bulls pass defense kept UCF from completing even half their passes (19-44), held them under five yards per attempt, and intercepted two passes.
Junior CB (#21) Trae Williams has four of South Florida's five interceptions on the year, three of those coming against FIU and UCF. Williams also has also been credited with breaking up three passes (all games) which puts him second on the team behind junior CB (#4) Mike Jenkins, who has broken up four (all games).
Redshirt freshman DE (#95) George Selvie was credited with two sacks against FIU and has 5.5 tackles-for-loss on the season (all games). Junior NTs (#76) Richard Cleberta and (#94) Allen Cray, redshirt freshman LB (#49) Chris Robinson, and junior DE Jarriett Buie have each been credited with a sack against Division I-A opposition.
Senior WR Ean Randolph returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the win against FIU. Even ignoring that return, South Florida has averaged over 20 yards per punt return the last two games. Unfortunately, South Florida's punt return exploits haven't proven to be much of an advantage as they allowed an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown against FIU, 38 yards on 2 punt returns against UCF, and a 31-yard return for a touchdown off of a blocked punt that allowed UCF to tie the game halfway through the fourth quarter.
Kickoff returns, both for and against, have been far less exciting with five South Florida players combining for 19.6 yards per kick return and the Bulls allowing just 16.2 yards per return to their opponents.
Sophomore PK (#28) Mike Benzer has made all 11 of his extra points this year but is 1-3 on field goal attempts, missing a 40-yard attempt in the opener against McNeese State and a 35-yard attempt against FIU before making the first field goal of his first career, a 30-yard kick against UCF.