Bulls barely beat SMU

Sophomore Mike White threw for the Bulls’ only two touchdowns despite only playing in the final 10 minutes. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

With an inconsistent offensive effort throughout the game for the Bulls, Saturday’s last-second 14-13 win over SMU (0-9,0-5) was unimpressive, to say the least.

SMU’s defense has given up an average of 447 yards and 47 points per game. USF was only able to muster up a measly 14-point effort with 378 yards — 75 yards coming on the final drive of the game.

For three and a half quarters, USF’s offense was able to get first downs, as they had five more than SMU, but failed to put any points on the board against a defense that has allowed 38 or more points in each of the previous eight games. 

Even with out-gaining SMU by 121 yards, USF (4-6, 3-3) was still looking for its first score of the game going into the final minutes.

Penalties and turnovers have been a consistent problem for the offense throughout the season. The Bulls average 57 penalty yards per game, exceeding that total Saturday, with eight penalties for 96 yards.

The victory,  if you can call it that, allowed coach Willie Taggart to avoid scrutiny over pulling true-freshman quarterback Quinton Flowers, who made his first career start, with 9:45 left in the game in favor of sophomore Mike White, who was benched following a poor first half against Cincinnati.

Flowers, USF’s only true dual threat, didn’t show much flash in the first three quarters, but lead the offense with confidence and, more importantly, didn’t turn the ball over — something White has struggled with.

Flowers finished the game completing 6-of-15 passes for 105 yards along with 33 yards on the ground, but these stats don’t accurately represent his play.

Four of his nine incompletions were dropped passes, which have plagued the Bulls all season. Flowers was not sacked, but not because his protection was stout. He had to run away from defenders and create plays on his own, which he did effectively.

In one particular example of Flowers’ ability to extend plays, the Bulls had a 2nd-and-20 on their own 12-yard-line early in the second half, when Flowers spun out of a tackle, rolled out to his right and completed a pass for 19 yards to get his team out of a hole.

When White entered the game midway through the fourth quarter, he went 3-for-4 for 45 yards and a touchdown, but again, stats can be misleading.

Without taking anything away from the first touchdown-scoring drive, White had the best field position of the day at midfield and after hitting  wide-open senior tight end Mike McFarland on his first throw, White was able to connect on two short passes. On one of those, freshman running back D’Ernest Johnson helped out White by breaking two tackles after the catch to get into the end zone.

White followed that score up with a 21-play drive that resulted in a game-winning, back-shoulder touchdown throw to senior receiver Andre Davis with four seconds left in the game.

White finished the game 9-for-16 throwing for 106 yards and two touchdowns, numbers Flowers could’ve achieved if left in the game.

Taggart said after the game that the reason for pulling Flowers was because the Bulls needed to throw the ball, which he felt White was more capable of doing.

With White’s ability to pull out the win, it looks as if there will be yet another quarterback battle in the ensuing week. Who knows, maybe next week will be freshman quarterback Evan Wilson’s turn on Taggart’s quarterback carousel.

For now, the Bulls’ slim chance of winning out and making a bowl game is still alive and will look to gain momentum Saturday against Memphis (7-3, 5-1).