Takeaways: Offensive identity established against Temple, Mangham continues to thrive

Running backs Jaren Mangham (left) and Kelley Joiner Jr. both rushed for over 100 yards and combined for three touchdowns in USF’s win over Temple on Saturday night. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

USF punished Temple’s defense for 421 rushing yards Saturday, the most in a single game in program history, en route to a 34-14 win. It’s the team’s first victory over an FBS opponent and first conference win in nearly two years. 

The victory presented a lot of positives for a program that had been struggling for confidence. Here are a few things we learned from the Bulls’ big win.

Offensive identity established

There was more to this game than just the eye-catching rushing record. USF controlled the flow of the matchup with the offense in possession of the ball for over 44 minutes, earning as many first downs (34) as Temple’s total number of offensive snaps.

What was particularly encouraging, however, was the fact the Bulls found success on the ground no matter who took the handoff. Junior Jaren Mangham and sophomore Kelley Joiner Jr. each eclipsed 100 rushing yards for the first time this season, and sophomore Brian Battie added 77 of his own to boot.

The Bulls ran 73 times and averaged nearly six yards per carry as a team. Although breaking a program record can’t be expected every week, this game established USF’s identity on offense.

Mangham should be fed

With two more touchdowns Saturday night, Mangham is now up to 12 this season, just six away from tying USF’s single-season record of 18 set by former quarterback Quinton Flowers in 2016.

Mangham has proven to be a workhorse in the backfield. His 26 carries Saturday doubled his 13 last week against Tulsa. In fact, he surpassed 13 attempts in just over a quarter of play. 

Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. must continue to call plays that get the ball in Mangham’s hands. The stocky running back’s impact can open up opposing defenses for the passing game to thrive, and perhaps he can even make history in the process.

The perfect response to a devastating loss

USF hit another wall last week, surrendering a last-minute touchdown and losing by one point after leading Tulsa by 11 in the fourth quarter.

The Bulls bounced back in the best way, setting records on offense while the defense once again forced multiple turnovers. It was USF’s most complete performance so far this campaign and a welcome sight after such a low last week. Saturday’s win was a mark of USF’s resiliency and ability to respond to adversity. 

“One of the first things I told our players in the locker room after the game is I’m proud of them, but I’m really not surprised,” coach Jeff Scott said. “I expected them to play this way today because of the way they’ve stuck together.”

Defense continues to improve

For much of the season USF’s defense was seen as the team’s weak link. Over their first six games of the season, the unit surrendered 40 or more points three times and more than 30 twice.

However, in the game against Tulsa, despite giving up 32 points, the Bulls put up an impressive performance by forcing three turnovers against one of the better offenses in the conference. 

The upward trend continued against Temple as USF turned the Owls over two more times.

With an established offensive identity and a defense on an upward trajectory, Scott may have found his blueprint for success.

Chris Carter’s hustle proves valuable

Early in the first quarter, Temple’s Keyshawn Paul scooped a botched snap on a USF field-goal attempt with nothing but green grass and junior kicker Spencer Shrader in front of him. Just when it looked like a certain touchdown, junior tight end Chris Carter hawked Paul down and made a last-ditch tackle just five yards from paydirt. 

Four plays later, senior defensive back Mekhi LaPointe picked off a pass in the end zone. The Bulls’ offense then embarked on a nine-minute drive capped by a Mangham touchdown that set the team on its way to victory.

“[Carter’s tackle was] the play of the game for me,” Scott said. “That was [an example of] the heart of this team right there.”

A Temple touchdown on that fumble or soon after could have snowballed into another ugly loss for the Bulls. Instead, the team swung momentum in its favor and got the ball rolling in the right direction.