It wasn't a really inspiring, confidence-building win if you're a fan. But it was a win, a pretty easy win at that, and no one got seriously hurt. There were quite a few teams that had much harder times with FCS opponents than USF did last night. ('Sup, Pittsburgh.) So take a three-touchdown win and be happy.
I listened to Todd Fitch's interview after the game on Bulls247 and I heard him say something that should have been kind of obvious before -- that wasn't anywhere close to the normal USF offense we saw. Fitch said they limited the running game "to see where they were," and it was noticeable. B.J. Daniels did very little running, and there weren't a whole lot of wrinkles, just a lot of Demetris Murray and Marcus Shaw between the tackles. That's probably why the Bulls only ran for a total of 85 yards.
The Mocs were also blitzing like crazy. Daniels took a couple of sacks and had to bail out of some other plays, which all came out of the rushing yardage. And a lot of the passing game was off play-action, which they didn't have a lot of time for. Maybe that's why the offense didn't look quite as sharp as you would like it to.
Fortunately the defense was there all night long. Chattanooga (two T's, three A's) only got 151 total yards, and 10 of their 13 points came on drives that covered a combined seven yards. The Mocs went three-and-out eight times. USF racked up six sacks and 12 tackles for loss and no matter how much the offense spun its wheels, you knew that the Bulls weren't in any danger of losing the game.
A bunch of unconnected thoughts after the jump.
-- That was shades of 2009 B.J. Daniels last night. He was running away from pressure for the most part, it wasn't design or improvisation like it was when he was a freshman. When he threw the ball, though, you never really knew what was going to happen. He hit two deep balls for touchdowns, and threw a third to Derrick Hopkins, who was wide open after the Mocs completely lost him at the goal line. But he also did some crazy things, like jacking up a deep ball off his back foot, which would only work against an FCS team. And he threw a horrible interception in the last minute of the first half that completely changed the momentum of the game. It was returned all the way inside the USF 5-yard line and let to Chattanooga's only touchdown. It let them hang around for at least a quarter longer than they should have.
-- Terrence Mitchell was the Bulls' MVP last night. Not just for his five catches and a touchdown, but his two big punt returns. Mitchell's absence following the UTEP game last year caused a ripple effect in the entire special teams unit. No one else was really able to run back punts (or in the case of Victor Marc, catch the ball on a regular basis) and I'm convinced that somewhere, not having T-Rex cost the Bulls a game, and consequently a bowl. Getting him back is a huge plus.
-- Welcome to college football, Todd Chandler! After missing all of the last two years with academic problems, including a year of ineligibility, the highly-touted defensive tackle from Miami Northwestern had five tackles, three TFLs, and a sack. An auspicious debut.
-- I was surprised at how totally ineffective Terrell Robinson was for Chattanooga. I know they more or less installed a new offense this offseason (USF did a really good job considering they must not have had much film on it), but he only generated 29 yards of total offense. I did predict that the Mocs were going to run the crap out of the ball, and they did. 39 called runs and 24 called passes, only a handful of which went more than a few yards downfield. That's how you end up with 35-plus minutes in time of possession and barely crack 150 yards from scrimmage.
-- The breaks of the game: On one play, Daniels loses the ball on his windup and Damien Edwards (a last-minute starter at left tackle, in place of Darrell Williams) ends up recovering the fumble after a fortuitous bounce. On the next play, Daniels throws a 39-yard rainbow to Sterling Griffin for a touchdown.
-- The breaks of the game, again: Jacob Huesman runs in for an apparent Chattanooga touchdown, but it's called back by a holding penalty. On the next play, he's sacked for a 10-yard loss, and on 4th down, the Mocs miss a field goal, wiping out their only effective drive of the first half.
-- Luke Sager with the brain-dead play of the night, roughing Robinson on 2nd and 32 (a screen pass, no less) and giving the Mocs a free first down.
-- D'vario Montgomery is all arms and legs. He should be an interesting weapon in the passing game right away.
-- The final stats for Chattanooga's Wes Dothard: nine tackles, two TFLs, a sack, a quarterback hurry, a ton of jawing after the whistle, and five letters peeling off his nameplate.
-- I expect we'll see a more diverse and focused game plan next week in Reno, which is a good thing because Nevada knocked off California for the second time in three years on Saturday. USF better be ready.