USF didn’t tie up its loose ends Saturday in New Orleans, but rather reinforced coach Charlie Strong’s assertion of their inability to play a complete game.
Up 34-7 in the third quarter, USF allowed Tulane to score 21 unanswered points in the second half. This coming Saturday, when the Bulls host Houston (4-3), there will be less of a margin for any slipups, let alone allowing a three-touchdown run.
Despite the late collapse, USF still won and moved to 7-0 for the first time in program history. The Bulls know their collapse was unacceptable, but is also something they can build on.
“We had a few too many missed tackles,” said senior safety Devin Abraham. “That’s what got us last week.”
Houston will be the Bulls’ toughest opponent this season, as the Cougars are ranked by the rating percentage index as the No. 55 team in the nation — higher than any other USF opponent Despite having a 4-3 record, two of the Cougars’ three losses were by less than a touchdown — including their loss Oct. 19 to No. 24 Memphis, who erased a 17-0 halftime deficit to win 42-38.
“(Houston) is pretty similar to us,” Strong said. “They have big athletic guys, they get up and down the field.”
Houston quarterback Kyle Postma is averaging 186 yards passing and 33 yards rushing per game, but has had games where he’s thrown for over 300 yards and run for over 80.
“He makes the reads, he throws the ball and he runs it pretty well,” Abraham said. “They do a lot of good things on offense. It’s a new challenge for us, but we’re up to it.”
The senior quarterback has thrown five touchdowns and six interceptions in the six games he’s played in 2017. Facing a Bulls defense that leads the nation in interceptions Saturday may cause problems for the inexperienced gunslinger.
On the defensive side, the Cougars will be led by five-star recruit and former All-American defensive lineman Ed Oliver, who’s coming off a six tackle, one sack game against No. 24 Memphis.
Strong recruited him during his time with Texas and knows Oliver will be a threat off the line Saturday.
“I’ve always thought he’s one of the best defensive lineman in the country,” Strong said. “He’s someone we’re always gonna know where he is.”
Despite Oliver’s contingency as an All-American and one of the best defensive lineman in recent years, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling doesn’t think he’ll be able to slow down quarterback Quinton Flowers.
“(Flowers) hasn’t changed,” Valdes-Scantling said. “He’s always been the most competitive guy on the field. Whatever he can do on the field to help us win he’s going to do it.”
The Bulls are looking to extend their program-best start to 8-0, as well as prove to themselves that they can put together a complete game.
“(Strong) wants us to work hard and finish teams,” Abraham said. “He wants the best out of the team.”
Strong said he believes once USF puts together a complete game, they could be dangerous.
“Once we get that first complete game, watch out.” Strong said.