OPINION: Takeaways from Friday's War on I-4

By Brian Hattab, Staf Writer
On November 24, 2018

USF was unable to spoil UCF's undefeated season in Friday's War on I-4, but the loss has some fans asking what happens next. ORACLE PHOTO/SAM NEWLON

USF football fell to No. 9 UCF 38-10 on Friday at Raymond James Stadium.

Give USF credit, the entire game wasn’t as ugly as many thought it would be heading into this game.

But a loss is a loss and that’s five in a row for a reeling Bulls team. Here are some postgame takeaways from USF’s loss to its in-state rival.

Too Predictable

In the first half, USF went for it in two different fourth-and-short scenarios.

Both times, USF made the right call. It’s impossible to defeat UCF by kicking field goals.

But, both times, USF made the worst-possible play call — a run up the middle.

It’s become such a predictable move from USF’s offense that the halfback dive is a meme amongst USF fans on Twitter.

When everyone in the building knows what’s coming — especially when “everyone” includes the opposing defense — call a different play.

Anything else would have been better.

A slant pass that gets dropped? Fine, at least it wasn’t a halfback dive.

A jet sweep that goes nowhere? At least it wasn’t a halfback dive.

As former Lightning coach John Tortorella told his championship team in 2004, “Safe is death.”

The ugly side of football

UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton was carted off early in the second quarter after suffering a devastating knee injury. If you haven’t already seen a visual of the injury, don’t go out of your way to. It’s horrific.

“You hate to see that happen to Milton because he’s such a competitor,” USF coach Charlie Strong said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him. I just hope he’s able to work his way back through, because it’s a really tough injury.”

Milton’s season is obviously over. Who knows if he’ll even play football again at this point?

Football’s ugly side has been well documented in recent years with the rise in cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE, but this injury just proves that no matter what is done about repetitive blows to the head, football is still an incredibly dangerous sport with potentially devastating consequences.

Milton’s life may forever have been altered because of his injury Friday. There’s no guarantee he ever regains the same function he had in that knee.

Someday, football may become a completely safe game to play.

Until then, we’ll continue to see the life completely sucked out of stadiums when devastating injuries like this happen.

So now what?

The USF coaching staff has faced its fair share of criticism on social media and elsewhere for this disappointing season.

So, now that the regular season is over, and all that is left is a potentially second-tier bowl game, what’s next?

Probably nothing.

Strong isn’t going anywhere unless he wants to, and after a disappointing end to USF’s season, it’s hard to see Strong fielding the same number of phone calls as he did this time last year.

No coordinator is going to be axed with just a bowl game left to play. That’s not normal in college football. If in-season changes were going to happen, they’d have happened by now.

Changes are probable, though. The fan base is too upset for nothing at all to happen.

But if anything does happen — if they happen at all, to be clear — it will happen in time.

So really — now what? What bowl game will USF play?

There will be more on this later in the week in The Oracle, but for now the safe bet is getting set to drive rather than fly to whatever bowl game USF plays in.

Most bowl predictions have USF playing in the Gasparilla Bowl against a Conference USA opponent at Raymond James Stadium on Dec. 20, but there was a representative from Orlando’s Cure Bowl, which takes place at Camping World Stadium on Dec. 15 against an opponent from the Sun Belt, at Friday’s War on I-4 game.

They definitely weren’t there scouting UCF, that’s for sure.

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