Sure, it’s not the worst when it comes to yardage — 240.6 yards per game this season compared to the all-time low of 144.6 in 2005 — but yardage doesn’t matter.
Points matter, and the USF offense has scored less than a touchdown per game this year.
USF has scored 39 points in the last three games, and somehow, none of those 39 points were scored with an offensive touchdown. It’s been three games since the Bulls’ offense recorded a touchdown, when USF was already trailing the Miami Hurricanes 49-14 late in the fourth quarter.
Coach Willie Taggart has said the offensive struggles are everyone’s fault. The coaches, receivers, tight ends, offensive line, running backs and quarterbacks are all at fault, he said. That very well may be the case.
And this USF offense, regardless of who is playing quarterback, couldn’t do much better if it lined up against 10 defensive players instead of 11.
The Bulls (2-5, 2-1) have scored six offensive touchdowns in seven games, which is two more than the USF defense has scored — the defense has nearly outscored the USF offense. The Bulls’ six offensive touchdowns are the fewest of 123 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. At this point, USF is scoring a touchdown less per game than in 2012 when it set the school record for fewest points scored per game (20.6).
This year’s Bulls squad is scoring 14.3 points per game. There are a couple reasons why USF is sixth worst in scoring offense in the nation.
The Bulls lost five of their top 10 players in receiving yards from the 2012 team, who all caught passes from four-year starting quarterback B.J. Daniels. Daniels went on to be signed by the San Francisco 49ers and 1,165 of the 2,586 receiving yards in 2012 left when those five players exited the program.
Such talent depletion requires someone new to step up this year. The Bulls haven’t had anyone step up in a major role besides senior running back Marcus Shaw, and there’s only so much a rusher can do to make a passing game better.
It’s plain to see the Bulls lack offensive talent. Elite football programs can recover from losing half of its pass catchers. USF cannot, at least not this year. Either that or offensive players are incapable of running Taggart’s offensive scheme effectively, which Taggart nearly admitted when he said USF doesn’t have the personnel to run the schemes it wants to.
As Taggart has said, there’s plenty of blame to go around. If that’s true, it’s everyone’s fault USF has the worst passing completion percentage in the country (40.4).
With a mark like that, which is considerably lower than the school-record low of 47.2 in 2005, USF has been incapable of sustaining a scoring drive with any sort of consistency.
The Bulls are 21-of-95 (22 percent) on third down conversions, while opponents are 42-of-101 (42 percent). Any hope that grows out of USF stringing a couple solid plays together is dashed when it comes to third down and the Bulls have to punt four out of five times.
USF has one of the most predictable offenses in the nation right now. Defenses line up against USF knowing they will run the football with Shaw — or any of his back-ups during the last couple games — and after they put the Bulls in third-and-long situations, USF needs to pass for a first down.
But USF cannot pass.
The Bulls, with their revolving door of quarterbacks, sophomores Matt Floyd and Steven Bench, along with senior Bobby Eveld, have combined for that 40.4 mark. There isn’t another school in the nation lower than a 45 percent completion rate.
Maybe Taggart finally realized neither of the three quarterbacks are the answer in Saturday’s 34-3 loss to the No. 19 Louisville Cardinals, when he inserted true
freshman Mike White during the fourth quarter.
Taggart said White will start Thursday’s game at Houston (6-1) on a short week of preparation. He also said White is a pure pocket passer who can make all the throws a quarterback needs to, something he hasn’t said about the previous starters.
But just a month ago after the loss to Miami on Sept. 28, Taggart said White wasn’t ready to start. One has to wonder what changed.
Well, nothing changed. It was just another month of horrid quarterback play, and Taggart had seen enough. Let’s not forget about Taggart’s assistant coaching stint at Stanford, where he was around Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, during his redshirt and freshman years (2008-09).
With that being said, Taggart has quite a measuring stick of how a college quarterback should play and conduct himself. White has a long road ahead, but if the Bulls manage to score a couple touchdowns per game with him under center, then it would be a stroke of brilliance.
Don’t get too excited if the White-led Bulls outscore an opponent in the first quarter, though, wait until the game is over to make your judgments. USF has outscored opponents 44-40 in the first quarter this season.
In quarters two, three and four, USF has been outscored 56-175. If White can just keep the Bulls in the game for a few quarters with five possible starts remaining, fans might be able to proceed to next season with a shadow of hope.