USF led 14-6 at halftime against East Carolina on Thursday, but ultimately couldn’t get the job done in the second half, falling to the Pirates 29-14.
Here are five things we learned from USF’s loss to ECU.
Rushing success continues
Although the Bulls didn’t take home a win, they did see junior running back Kelley Joiner Jr. rush for over 100 yards for the fourth time in his collegiate career, and the second time in two weeks.
Junior running back Jaren Mangham was also able to add 67 yards. The impressive performance comes just five days after the Bulls set a program record for rushing yards in a game with 421 against Temple on Oct. 23.
Establishing the run and doing it well allows for an offense to control the pace of the game. With a 6-1 Houston team and undefeated Cincinnati waiting for USF over the next two weeks, running the ball effectively will be crucial.
Tale of two halves
The Bulls have now had the lead at halftime in three straight games but only have one win to show for it.
It was an unanswered 23-point second half for the Pirates that put the game out of reach. Two weeks ago against Tulsa, a 12-point blitz by the Golden Hurricane in the fourth quarter did USF in.
In what seems to be an odd trend, USF appears to struggle putting four solid quarters together. The Bulls outscored Florida and BYU in the second half after falling behind early, and did the opposite against Tulsa and ECU, allowing their opponents to have second-half comebacks.
Hobbled offense struggles in the second half
From the jump, it was unclear whether or not the USF offense would have all of its starting pieces. Freshman quarterback Timmy McClain, who coach Jeff Scott maintained was a game-time decision all week, did not start for the Bulls.
Mangham looked bothered by a leg injury he appeared to sustain in the first half, and junior receiver Xavier Weaver looked to be grabbing at his arm toward the end of the game.
Both Weaver and Mangham stayed in the game, and even made some plays before the night was over, but the hobbled USF offense couldn’t get any points on the board in the second half.
Defensive issues in the second half
After forcing three turnovers and holding the Pirates to just one touchdown in the first half, everything seemed to unravel for the Bulls after halftime.
The defense allowed ECU to tally 265 total yards in the final two quarters and gave up two touchdowns and a field goal, as one of ECU’s scores came on an interception returned for a touchdown.
On various third- and fourth-down scenarios, it seemed as if the Bulls were playing too soft in their coverage, simply allowing ECU to pick up first downs with ease. The Pirates were 5-of-10 on third downs and 2-of-2 on fourth downs in the second half.
Grier turning into turnover machine
After stripping ECU’s freshman tight end Shane Calhoun of the ball and it being recovered by senior linebacker Dwayne Boyles, senior linebacker Antonio Grier has been at the center of four turnovers over the past three games.
Grier made an interception against Temple last week and forced a fumble against Tulsa the week prior, as well as returning an interception for a touchdown.
The senior was also able to rack up 12 tackles against the Pirates.