Takeaways: USF struggled to find rhythm against Howard

Senior running back Jaren Mangham (center) posts eighth highest career touchdowns in USF history with 18. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

After a slow start, the Bulls secured a 42-20 win over Howard on Saturday. Coach Jeff Scott said that as a program, the team is still learning how to win games and the victory was much needed.

“I’m not going to downgrade this win at all,” Scott said. “The fun is in winning. Hopefully, those guys will do what it takes to be able to have a lot more of those moments.”

While the Bulls are celebrating, they still have improvements to make before facing some big opponents on their schedule, such as No. 18 Florida.

Here are four takeaways from the game and what it might mean for the rest of USF’s season.

Scoreboard is deceiving

While the Bulls did well according to the scoreboard, their performance Saturday night is not enough to sustain the rest of the season. On Saturday, USF only converted two third downs, marked 205 rushing yards and barely secured 219 passing yards.

The Bulls will be facing No. 18 Florida on Sept. 17, and sophomore quarterback Anthony Richardson had a 70% completion rate against Utah on Sept. 3. Offensively, the Gators logged 419 rushing yards and 311 passing yards this season.

Winning games is “fun,” according to Scott, but USF will not be able to pull through during conference games and versus ranked opponents like Florida if they continue the performance from Saturday night.

“We’re gonna have to play extremely well,” Scott said. “Florida’s a very talented team. For us we’re pushing, trying to play to the best of our ability and tonight was not.”

Offensive identity crisis

The Bulls were teetering between throwing and running the ball. However, running is what seemed to work.

USF continued to attempt deep throws and failed when the Bulls made most of their movement down the field from rushing yards. The first half of the game looked like it was spent still trying to see what worked offensively.

“I feel like we got to connect on some of the deep balls,” Scott said. “We want to be able to run the ball, we want to be able to throw the ball and we want to be able to attack on the field.”

Out of those three, the Bulls were consistently able to run the ball to make the plays happen. If USF wants more wins they should continue capitalizing on rushing yards.

Playmakers Mangham and Battie

Running backs senior Jaren Mangham and sophomore Brian Battie stood out as key playmakers Saturday and climbed up a few spaces on the USF history list.

Mangham rose to eighth all-time for touchdowns in USF history. Mid-game he posted his 18th career touchdown and put up 28 rushing yards.

Battie marked a new career record for longest touchdown for 60 yards which extended USF’s lead to 35 in the fourth quarter. He also led the offense with 105 rushing yards.

Both of their deliveries contributed to the six rushing touchdowns of the game, which was the most in a single game since 2003.

Still struggling to make defensive strides

Last week, Scott said he wanted to fix the defense. Sophomore linebacker James Gordon IV said it was better this time around because they left it in the hands of the players.

“The coach put it more in our hands,” Gordon said. “We just got to keep this up … so we can play fast and play strong with more communication and stuff,” Gordon said.

USF still gave up 413 yards to Howard. The only way the Bulls will capitalize on this fix is if they can get their coaches and players on the same page.

“We’re fortunate to get a couple of turnovers, but we really just gave up too many yards on first and second down there in the first half and allowed [Howard] to extend drives,” Scott said.