Takeaways: Bulls cut down on penalties in ‘special’ road win

The Bulls had one penalty in their 44-30 win against Navy on Saturday, marking their fewest in a game this season. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

In a season full of record-breaking milestones, USF football crossed another threshold in its 44-30 win against Navy on Saturday.

It not only marked the Bulls’ (3-2, 2-0 AAC) first road win since 2019, but their first consecutive victory in conference play since 2018. It also was the first time they beat the Midshipmen (1-3, 0-2 AAC) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The win was more sentimental for players like junior wide receiver Sean Atkins, who stuck around during the program’s road-game losing streak. The last time he played in a USF road victory was in 2019 against UConn.

“It has been a long time. I am excited for the guys who stuck with the program with me from that class. It’s really special,” Atkins said.

Byrum Brown’s elite birthday weekend

Just a day after his 19th birthday, freshman quarterback Byrum Brown continued his stellar play from last week against Rice.

Brown completed 26 of his 34 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns against the Midshipmen. Over his last six quarters of play, he has totaled 625 passing yards and six touchdowns, five coming through the air.  

Brown said that friends and family traveled to Annapolis to watch him play and celebrate the occasion. He also said their support throughout his life and career has been “tremendous.”

“Just being able to lean on them is a blessing. I’m thankful and blessed to have them as my family and I truly love them,” Brown said.

Bounceback plays continue

Over the past few weeks, Bulls coach Alex Golesh has emphasized that the team is playing complimentary football. In instances where the defense makes a mistake, the offense makes up for it, and vice versa. Saturday was another example.

Atkins fumbled a punt return, which contributed to their 14-0 deficit in the first quarter. It could have proven detrimental to the Bulls’ hopes of winning because of past challenges of handling adversity.

However, he would make up for it by catching two touchdown passes in the first half, including an 88-yarder in the second quarter.

His two touchdowns were part of a 44-9 scoring run for the Bulls.

He said Golesh’s reassurance helped maintain his confidence and put that play behind him.

“Whenever the head coach comes up to you after the play and says, ‘Next play. We still love you, we still trust you back there,’ that definitely locks you back in for sure,” Atkins said.

Bulls cut down on penalties

Discipline was emphasized heavily coming into this matchup. Coming into the game, Navy was ranked second in the country in fewest penalties per game. USF placed 128th in that same category. 

Saturday was a complete reversal of those statistics. The Bulls had only one penalty for 12 yards compared to the Midshipmen who had eight for 70 yards. 

Is USF going bowling?

The Bulls are three wins away from clinching a bowl game berth for the first time in five years.

In its last appearance, USF lost 38-20 to Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl. Its last win came the year earlier against Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl 38-34.

Because of this win, the possibility becomes greater as they have seven games left to become bowl-eligible.

USF will play UAB on Saturday at 4 p.m. It will be broadcast on ESPNU or ESPN2 and BullsUnlimited Radio.