USF Assessment: Defend the Run & Charlie Strong’s Thoughts on UConn Offense

The Huskies have already turned the page after Saturday’s loss to Missouri and shifted their focus to South Florida, who comes in after having their nation’s longest winning streak snapped at twelve, following a 28-24 loss to Houston. The Bulls lost at home to a Cougars offense led by sophomore QB D’Eriq King (former QB turned WR & now QB again), who took over for starter Kyle Postma, now Houston’s third quarterback of 2017 (Kyle Allen) under new head coach Major Applewhite. King completed a 30-yard pass against the USF defense on a late 4th and 24 on the final drive, before he scored the game-winner with 11-seconds remaining on a 20-yard scramble.

On Monday, 1st-year USF head coach Charlie Strong clearly sounded disappointed after suffering his first loss since arriving in Tampa from Texas.

“We lost the game to Houston and just didn’t play well,” Strong said on the AAC Call on Monday afternoon. “It was a home game and we should’ve played a lot better. We are looking forward to going on the road to Connecticut and it gives us a chance to get us back on track, not let one loss be [more than just that]. We are looking forward to getting back to work, getting the team prepared and ready to go play.”

From afar, despite the 12-game winning streak and current 7-1 record, there seems to be a bit of underachieving from a talented roster that begins with preseason Heisman hopeful Quinton Flowers. It’s always expected there will be a transition period under a new head coach, but despite a few lopsided wins, the Bulls really haven’t played a full, complete game all season and some in Tampa believe he’s kept Flowers in a box, limiting some of his key qualities throughout the year. Strong’s philosophy differs greatly from former head coach Willie Taggart, who opened up the offense mid-season a few years ago, which led to an offensive resurgence that ultimately led to Taggart departing in the offseason for Oregon. This year, the Bulls look like a shell of themselves.

That’s not to say they aren’t talented, they certainly are, but a bit of conservativeness limits what they can do offensively. On Saturday, USF ran the ball 55 times for an average of just 2.49 yards per carry. According to Joey Knight of the Tamp Bay Times, on the 36 first down plays on Saturday, the Bulls ran on 23 of them, gaining just 22-yards.

“Offensively, we were able to score points, we just need to get off the field on defense,” Strong responded on Monday when asked about the offenses struggles. “We scored enough points to win, were up 7-0 at the half and we can’t let a team score 28 in the second half. It’s not just one phase though, it’s all phases.”

Getting wins on early downs will certainly benefit a UConn defense that has struggled from keeping opposing offenses off-schedule during drives. Saturday should be a test for the Huskies up-front defensively, a bit of a change from some of the ‘normal’ offenses in the AAC that like to throw it all over the yard. Flowers is a great player, one of the best all-around quarterbacks in the nation and brings a dimension the Huskies haven’t seen all-year with his legs, but he’s not Drew Lock or Riley Ferguson in the passing game. He can throw it and throw it well, but Saturday has the feeling that the Huskies will be tested up-front, rather than over-the-top, given the approach Strong has taken offensively throughout the year.

This is the second time for both teams’ preparing for each other, as this is the rescheduled game from week two that was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. I asked Strong about preparation and what he sees from the Huskies now, as opposed to earlier preparations at the start of the season.

“They [UConn] were right around the time we were going through the hurricane,” Strong said. “We prepared for them and I think at the time, they were going to make a quarterback change, which they did. I just can’t remember specifically because we’ve played so many other teams, but they are a different football team and a better football team than they were.”

Strong recognizes defending the Huskies will be challenging given how offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee operates his offense.

“Motion is always a problem and an issue for all defenses,” Strong said. “They [UConn] try so much misdirection and they try to get the ball on the perimeter. They also have enough where they can run the ball inside. The quarterback does a great job of leading the offense and making the throws.”


As with all Tuesday’s, head coach Randy Edsall will hold his weekly press conference this morning at 10:45. Check back for the entire media session from Edsall and select players, including starting QB Bryant Shirreffs, later today.


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