USF’s defense flexes muscle in 51-3 rout of Florida A&M

USF middle linebacker Auggie Sanchez (43) had 10 tackles in the Bulls' 51-3 victory over Florida A&M on Saturday. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Thousands of fans piled into Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, eager to see what USF’s revamped defense had to offer.

The newly-nicknamed “Bull Sharks” answered in style.

In the Bulls 51-3 rout of Florida A&M, the Rattlers’ offense had no answer for USF’s new 4-2-5 scheme. The Bulls allowed only three points in their largest victory of the Willie Taggart era and the most points scored in a season-opener since USF’s 2008 matchup with Tennessee-Martin.

The Rattlers were only able to muster up 182 yards of offense and didn’t hit the 100-yard threshold until midway through the third quarter.

“They were just flying around,” Taggart said. “They were flying around and you saw multiple guys around the ball and they were having fun.”

USF allowed an average of 403 yards per game last season, but was able to hold the Rattlers to 182 with only 12 yards rushing.

The Bulls forced a punt on nine consecutive defensive drives to start the game and held FAMU without a first down for the entire first half.

“Everyone’s on the same page,” sophomore defensive tackle Bruce Hector said. “It’s more communication this year and everybody’s working together and buying into the scheme and that made everything work.”

Hector, a Robinson High product, delivered two key sacks in front of an announced home crowd of 30,434 and finished the night with six tackles (three for a loss).

“Everybody’s on the same page,” Hector said. “It’s more communication this year and just everybody working together and buying into the scheme. So, it made everything work. They only had three points. That means we did a pretty good job.”

Sophomore linebacker Auggie Sanchez settled in as the signal caller on the defense with a team-high ten tackles and was only one of the handful of underclassmen to show up for USF.

Freshman Ronnie Hoggins made a diving interception midway through the fourth quarter one drive after junior defensive back Jaylen Spencer intercepted FAMU’s Kenneth Coleman, setting up a one-yard Marlon Mack touchdown.

“It’s hard to say (how to assess the defense), I haven’t watched the film, but I really liked how or guys ran to the ball,” Taggart said. “They didn’t give up any big plays and were constantly around the ball and weren’t out of position.”