In leaving Western Kentucky University for the University of South Florida, Head Coach Willie Taggart had to believe that his scheme and game planning would benefit from the talent upgrade he would have being in American Athletic Conference — he was right except for one position, Quarterback.
On Saturday another lackluster performance from the position cost the team as they were defeated by in-state rivals Florida Atlantic University 28-10 – the loss dropped them to 0-3 for the season.
After starter Bobby Eveld went 1-for-2 for only two yards and continued to struggle with moving the offense in two offensive series, Coach Taggart quickly turned to back-up Steven Bench as a potential spark for the offense.
The switch seemed to pay immediate dividends as the Penn State transfer led the offense on a five play 48 yard drive that ended in a field goal to cut the lead Owls’ lead to 7-3 in the first quarter.
That scoring drive seemed to energize the defense and on the subsequent offensive possession for the Owls, senior linebacker DeDe Lattimer intercepted a tip ball from Jaquez Johnson, giving the offense great field position at the 27 yard line.
Bench staked his claim as being the long-term answer at quarterback going forward by completing his first pass of the season — a 25 yard touchdown pass to walk-on fullback Ryan Eppes to give the Bulls the 10-7 lead.
However after the promising start, Bench struggles returned and he eventually finished the game going 8-for-23 with an interception that was returned 75 yards by D’Joun Smith for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the score 28-10 and seal the fate for the Bulls.
Wasted in the defeat was another stellar performance by senior running back Marcus Shaw who ran for 159 yards on 22 carries. It was times during the game that it looked like the Arcadia FL native was going to carry the team to victory; Runs of 44 and 41 yards put the Bulls offense in position to score but they were only able to get a field goal out of those two drives.
While the team seems to be content in playing two quarterbacks, it has yet to find a suitable back-up for Shaw; In the drive that saw Shaw break the 41 yard run, the offensive coordinator called his number on three consecutive plays but because he had nothing left in the tank, was stopped short on a momentum killing fourth down and goal play.
One continued bright spot for the team is the defense. Throughout the night it looked as if the team had taken pages out of the Michigan State defensive playbook before leaving East Lansing last weekend. Their aggressive play held the Owls to 228 total yards of offense and forced them into going 4-of-13 in third down conversions.
Unfortunately because of the inability of the offense to sustain drives, they wore down and the Owls offense took advantage of the missed tackles and bad penalties.
Having a bye this weekend should give Coach Taggart, Offensive Coordinator Walt Wells and passing coordinator Nick Sheridan plenty of practice & film time to decide on a long-term answer at quarterback as well as a back up at running back.
if not this could be a very long season for the fans, other coaches and players who have to sit through this indecision and ineptitude.