Memphis 49-USF 10: Postgame takeaways

USF’s loss to Memphis was one of the worst in program history. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

Let’s be real. 

Expectations heading into Saturday’s Senior Day matchup with No. 18 Memphis weren’t exactly high.

USF hasn’t looked good all season, with the exception of games against bottom-tier teams like UConn and East Carolina.

Additionally, Memphis came in as the third-best scoring offense in the AAC, averaging more than 40 points.

But, still, the Bulls’ 49-10 loss at Raymond James Stadium was staggering.

What in the world happened to the offense?

The Bulls’ offense started strong, scoring a touchdown on its first drive, which went for 75 yards.

From there, USF recorded only five first downs and three drives that went for double digits. The Bulls totaled 170 yards, their fewest since Week 1 against Wisconsin.

Per Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times, USF’s five first downs and 44 passing yards were the fewest in program history.

The incredible lack of protection from the offensive line in turn led to the dismal performance from the quarterbacks. Redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud was 5-of-14 for 45 yards, and sophomore Kirk Rygol, who replaced McCloud at various points in the second half, was 1-of-4 for -1 yard.

Each quarterback was sacked twice.

“We just never got back and were able to protect the quarterback enough to make the throw downfield,” coach Charlie Strong said, “because we had guys open, but just couldn’t get the ball to them.”

The one bright spot was freshman Kelley Joiner Jr., who started in place of senior running backs Jordan Cronkrite and Trevon Sands. Joiner Jr. ran for a net of 115 yards, the first 100-yard rushing game of his career.

There’s no other way to put it: After its first drive, USF put up one of the worst offensive performances in program history. 

The defense disappeared, too

Go to McDonald’s and order a fountain drink.

Take the drink back with you to your car with liquid still in the cup.

Let the cup sit in your cup holder for a few days.

Come back and remove the cup — notice how the bottom completely fell out of it.

That’s what happened to the USF defense.

The Bulls held Memphis to back-to-back three-and-outs before the Tigers scored their first touchdown.

KJ Sails and Daquan Evans, respectively, ended the next two Memphis drives with interceptions.

Then the liquid broke through the bottom of the cup.

The Tigers scored touchdowns on six of their next seven drives, including two streaks of three-straight scores.

Sure, the offense didn’t do its job when it had the ball, but even if it did, if the defense isn’t making any stops, it doesn’t matter.

Memphis ran a staggering 89 plays for 560 yards because the Bulls were unable to remove the cup from the cup holder.

The kicking game

Freshman kicker Spencer Shrader had a game to forget Nov. 16 against Cincinnati. He missed 4-of-5 field-goal attempts, including a late go-ahead kick that hit off the right upright.

Shrader was replaced on field-goal attempts Saturday by junior Coby Weiss, who went 1-of-2, but continued to kick off.

Shrader wasn’t particularly good on kickoffs, though, kicking both of his high into the air, ultimately being fair caught each time on the Memphis 30-yard line.

The Bulls never had to worry about kicking off after Shrader’s second, so it’s unclear what they’re thinking going forward regarding kickoffs. 

Shrader’s worst enemy may be his own head right now. He may be better served not kicking off Friday against UCF.

Not going bowling for the first time in a half-decade

USF’s bowl streak is over with the loss. The Bulls have nothing tangible — other than the War on I-4 trophy — to play for Friday evening against UCF at Spectrum Stadium.

The Knights have nothing to play for either, as, despite being bowl eligible, they can’t win the AAC East anymore.

Yet the game will be shown in prime time on ESPN for the first time since 2015, when it was played on Thanksgiving night.

Granted, that was the season UCF went 0-12, so this game shouldn’t be as difficult to pull in neutral viewers as that was.

Regardless, since USF won’t be playing in December for the first time since 2014, this is the Bulls’ de facto bowl game.

“That’s our rivalry game. We take that real serious,” sophomore linebacker Dwayne Boyles said. “We’re going to go out there and compete and we’ll get back this week and we’re focused on UCF right now.”

Whether that will be enough to bring the War on I-4 trophy back to Fowler Avenue for the first time since 2016 will be seen later this week.