Running With the Bulls

September 13, 2009 3:35 PM

South Florida Win Reveals More Weaknesses

When a team aspires to win the Big East football title, as the University of South Florida does, you take advantage of what are considered "lesser" teams on your football schedule.

You take those "lesser" teams to task, score early and often, pin them down defensively and generally make mince-meat out of them.

That's what Tennessee did to Western Kentucky last week, in a 63-7 Orange landslide.

USF had its shot at the Hilltoppers Saturday night in Bowling Green with terribly unimpressive results.

Sure USF came out with a 35-14 win. Sure Matt Grothe emerged as the new record holder for Big East total offensive yardage. Sure the Bulls are 2-0.

But at the same time, this victory showed more weaknesses than strengths.

When you're the highest paid coach in the Big East, as Jim Leavitt is, your teams are supposed to be prepared and accordingly stomp all over a team like Western Kentucky, a first-year entry into Division 1-A.

The Bulls were supposed to beat the Hill out of the Hilltoppers, but didn't.

They were supposed to shut down these good ole boys from Western, but didn't.

Instead, USF let the Hilltoppers take an early 3-0 lead and hang around through the third quarter, and that won't cut it when the competition heats up in a few weeks.

"Our special teams were not good tonight," Leavitt said right after his team got its second win.

That was an understatement. Two fumbled punt returns, two missed field goals (40, 49) by Delbert Alvarado, another interception thrown by Grothe, nine penalties for 85 yards, and well, you get the picture.

"I wanna play good football," said Leavitt. "We have to get better, we're gonna play much better teams. We're trying to get ready for the Big East."

If that's the case, this USF team has a long way to go. It simply cannot have some quarterback named Brandon Smith running all over the defense for 125 yards. Tennessee allowed this team only 89 yards total offense.

Huge difference.

But it wasn't ALL bad for USF. The Bulls did manage to find a 100-yard rusher for the first time in 16 games. Stocky Mo Plancher toted the ball 18 times for 115 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both of those TDs were set up by splash plays from receiver Carlton Mitchell. Of the four balls he caught, one went for 50-yards, the other 65.

The Bulls need more of that, a lot more.

Grothe was not great by Grothe standards. Sure he wound up with 261 total yards to pass the great West Virginia star Pat White in the Big East total yardage category. But he was only 13 of 22 in the air with an interception and he has to be better than that against this calibre of competition.

Fortunately for the Bulls, this was supposed to be nothing more than a piece of cake, dessert on the Bulls football menu.

Unfortunately, the Bulls aren't great dessert-eaters. They sometimes choke on the crumbs.

They didn't gobble this one down properly and still have a LOT of work to do.

They get hold of another patsy next Saturday, the guys from Charleston Southern, yes that Charleston Southern that served as the scarificial lamb in the Gators' Swamp two weeks ago.

Another cupcake, another piece of dessert.

The Bulls need to start getting it right and get it right in a hurry.

This sort of performance won't due.

Leavitt knows so.

And he said so.

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