ATLANTA — USF football trails Georgia Tech 14-3 at halftime.
Compared with last week’s slaughtering at the hands of Wisconsin, things are looking much brighter.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is it feels like — at least at the break — that this won’t be the end of the miserable seven-game losing streak.
But there’s a lot of football yet to be played and it’s only a two-score game. Here are some halftime thoughts.
Johnny in the slot
After being held out for unspecified reasons last week against Wisconsin, sophomore Johnny Ford made his debut as a slot receiver early in the first half.
In fact, it was very early — quarterback Blake Barnett connected with Ford from the slot position on the Bulls’ first play from scrimmage for a gain of 7.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, Ford’s first half performance didn’t hold up. Ford has been targeted four times, with three receptions for a net total of 3 yards. He’s also rushed three times for 7 yards and lost a fumbled punt return.
If offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell is ever going to get the offense running the way he hopes, Ford will be an integral part.
So while it wasn’t a half to remember for Ford, it’s important that he’s back.
Penalties are a killer
Early in the second quarter, Georgia Tech’s offense was seemingly heading for a three-and-out near midfield.
Back-to-back penalties by KJ Sails — pass interference on third-and-11 followed by a facemask on the very next play — brought the Yellow Jackets from the USF 44 to the Bulls’ 13-yard line, where they subsequently scored three plays later.
During fall camp, coach Charlie Strong constantly spoke about needing to be a more disciplined team because penalties were aplenty during each of USF’s scrimmages. In fact, it was usually the first thing Strong mentioned during each media availability following the scrimmages.
It’s entirely possible this was just a very poor sequence for Sails and it won’t happen again. But it’s tough not attributing those seven points as a direct result of those penalties.
Getting off the field
USF’s defense just couldn’t get off the field last week against Wisconsin.
The Bulls allowed the Badgers to convert more than 46 percent of their third down attempts plus a fourth-down attempt.
So far, the Yellow Jackets have only converted 37 percent of their third downs.
Overall, the defense has given up 141 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown drive toward the end of the first half, so things could be going a lot better for defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary’s side. But at least they’re not getting burned on third-and-short situations as frequently.
Staying on the field
The Bulls’ offense just hasn’t been able to get anything going thus far.
Part of that can be attributed to poor field position to start drives — four of USF’s seven drives started inside its own 30-yard line.
But part of that can also be attributed to Barnett not having enough time to get set, leading to poor passes and underthrown balls.
Fortunately for the Bulls, it hasn’t resulted in a turnover yet, but it feels inevitable. Simply put, USF needs to be able to sustain a drive and put pressure on the Georgia Tech defense, and it can’t do that without help from the line.