Apparently the University of South Florida defense never got the message: There was a football game Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
The Dalvin Cook Seminoles from Florida State were in town and this was a game you don’t want to miss, they were told.
The Bulls defense missed everything, including Cook, who ran for 267 yards in a 55-35 win, which was his sequel to last year when he gashed USF for 266 yards.
The bright spot is that they don’t play defense in the Big 12 Conference, so the Bulls’ hopes of getting into that Power Five conference is still alive though they didn’t do themselves any favors.
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The outcome of this game should not be surprising. FSU came in wounded after getting dominated 63-20 by Louisville last week and a good, physical team on its deathbed is never short on motivation.
USF looked more like a finesse team that didn’t want to get dirty. If this was a statement game for the defense, they lost their voice.
“We did a horrible job of tackling. We did a horrible job of adjusting to some of the things they were doing. They were running the same play and we didn’t adjust to it and that’s all on me,” said USF head coach Willie Taggart, whose mantra all week was that the Bulls had to tackle better.
Besides the missed tackles, the Bulls were often out of position and rarely seemed to make adjustments.
“Fundamentally, we were all over the place. We didn’t do a good job fundamentally, and we played sloppy football,” Taggart said.
The game looked as if it was going to be a typical Big 12 shootout when USF and FSU each scored on their first two possessions, but the Bulls’ offense bogged down and Cook was running circles around the defense.
“We were battling first downs and put ourselves in a lot of third-and-longs. It slowed us down and took us away from what we wanted to do,” Taggart said.
This is a game you want to put in a trash can and look forward or it will cause more than just one bad Saturday for USF.
“We have to move on. We came in here and said we had to take advantage of an opportunity that you don’t get often and we didn’t do that, but all of our goals are still ahead of us,” Taggart said. “We got to get back to work and make sure we correct some of these mistakes. Yes I am disappointed in our defense. You give up a half a hundred (647 total yards offense for FSU). I thought we would play better and handle Cook a lot better than we did.”
The FSU defense that was mauled last week must have done some soul searching. The Seminoles allowed quarterback Quinton Flowers to rush for 159 yards on 18 carries, but limited him to five completions in 14 attempts and picked him off twice while holding Marlon Mack to 42 yards on 12 carries.
The Bulls tried to live and die with the long ball, but it put them in too many third-and-long situations after their first two drives and that allowed FSU to pull away.
But this loss falls squarely on the defense, which allowed FSU 478 rushing yards
“We were terrible,” said Bulls middle linebacker and leading tackler Auggie Sanchez. “Their best player beat us and we’ve got to get back in the film room and see what we did wrong. They can put up points. They did it to Ole Miss. You don’t take them seriously and they will put up 55 points on you.
“They kept getting to the edge. You’ve got to pick your poison with them and we didn’t do a very good job. You have to make tackles, but you have to be in great position.”
With the Bulls set to begin AAC play Saturday at Cincinnati, they can’t afford to allow this loss to turn into two.
“Our guys are going to keep fighting. They still believed when they were down that they could come back and score against this team,” Taggart said. “But we just played sloppy all over today and you can’t do that against a good team like Florida State.
“The preseason is over with and the real season starts now for us. We have all conference games from here on out, and our goal is to win this conference. We got to put this game behind us and go on the road and face a very talented Cincinnati team.”