OPINION: USF – East Carolina takeaways

Jordan McCloud (3) has more or less solidified himself as the starting quarterback after throwing for 298 yards Saturday. A porous offensive line let McCloud get sacked four times, and the Bulls could never catch up to the Pirates. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

It’s ironic that USF plays in a stadium that houses a replica pirate ship because the East Carolina Pirates stormed Raymond James Stadium, plundered the ship and left the Bulls to sink deep into Davy Jones’ Locker.

A sunken ship is an appropriate analogy for USF’s 44-17 loss to East Carolina on Saturday.

To be blunt, USF embarrassed itself in front of its fans for the first time this season.

Quarterback quest completed … maybe … not quite

The hunt is over … sort of … not entirely.

USF stuck with one guy nearly all game for the first time this season, and while the offense never truly woke up, Jordan McCloud was productive.

And he impressed without even throwing a touchdown pass.

McCloud went 26-of-35 for a career-high 298 yards. In the previous three games, he threw for a combined 269 yards.

His previous record for most passing yards in a game was 267 in last year’s 20-17 loss against Cincinnati.

He may not be the final answer, but he’s been the most effective quarterback of the bunch.

McCloud wasn’t the only quarterback who played, however.

Noah Johnson came in late in the fourth quarter and scored his first touchdown in a USF jersey. He took six snaps and gained 26 all-purpose yards.

Not much to look at from Johnson, but his performance is something to consider even if McCloud gets the starting role going forward.

Coach Jeff Scott said that he would need to review the tape before making a final decision, but based on his performance alone, McCloud is likely the starter going forward.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t see others as well.

Offensive line fails to deliver

Saturday was the first time all season that left tackle Donovan Jennings, left guard Demetris Harris, center Brad Cecil, right guard Michael Wiggs and right tackle Jarrett Hopple played together.

What was expected to be a strengthening of a fairly consistent offensive line turned into the opposite.

Before Saturday, the Pirates’ defense had zero sacks. It added five Saturday against a porous line. East Carolina also totaled 13 tackles for loss, with linebacker Xavier Smith leading the way with 11 solo tackles with three for a loss.

Scott said the line is the least of his worries, however, and he attributed its lacking performance to a shortage of practice and game time.

He stressed that “it will get better.”

For the rest of the team’s sake, he has to be right in his assessment.

Special teams continue to make terrible errors

What was often USF’s strong suit last season has now become its Achilles heel.

A botched snap to punter Trent Schneider with less than three minutes left in the first half led to what can be used to describe how the special teams unit has played thus far.

On fourth-and-19 at USF’s 20-yard line, the snapped ball slipped out of Schneider’s hands, causing him to chase after the runaway ball and scoop it up. He attempted to make a dash for it, but he was pushed out of bounds for a loss of 10 yards.

On the following play, the Pirates scored on a 10-yard dash.

What began as a laughable mistake directly turned into a further divide on the scoreline.

Count the three punting gaffes at Notre Dame in Week 2, and USF now has as many punting mistakes as it has games played.

It’s an issue that has to be fixed soon or the Bulls will continue to “beat themselves,” something has stressed his team cannot do.