IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Brown, Sanders Lead South Florida’s Domination of Rice

Ken Cross

September 25, 2023 at 2:13 pm.

South Florida Bulls quarterback Byrum Brown (17) drops back to pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. (Photo: Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports)

TAMPA, Fla. – “Running with the Bulls” has not been applicable terminology for South Florida football since 2019.  They have lost 33 out of 37 games since Oct. 26, 2019, when they moved to 4-4 with a 45-20 win over East Carolina.

Only one of those four wins coming into the 2023 season had been against an FBS and American Athletic Conference squad – a 34-14 win over Temple in 2021.

On Saturday, USF used some superb and magnificent offensive acumen to subdue the Rice Owls, 42-29, at Raymond James Stadium.

“History teaches you things, but you don’t have to revert back to it,” said first-year USF head coach Alex Golesh. “I’m so glad we were able to go play the next one.”

Golesh was able to get quarterback Byrum Brown into a solid rhythm on the ground, as well as through the air. Brown completed 22 of 29 passes for 435 yards and two touchdowns and led South Florida in rushing with 82 yards on 14 carries. His one-yard touchdown run early in the third period gave USF a 20-14 advantage.

“I thought we were really cognizant of getting him into a rhythm early,” explained Golesh. “I thought we did a really solid job there. I thought it set them up for success.”

Brown and his teammates had a monumental advantage in their athletic ability over the Owls and they were able to use that to their advantage throughout the game on both sides of the football.

Wide receiver Naiem Simmons set the record for receiving yards in the history of the AAC as he caught eight passes for 272 yards. It was also the receiving record for the most yards by any receiver in the state of Florida in a single game.

“It was really him (Coach Golesh) believing in me earlier in the week,” said Simmons. “He told me yesterday he thought I would get 100 yards receiving. So we came out here and doubled it, giving back to the team and making sure we came out of here with the win.”

Golesh came to USF from Tennessee where he was the offensive coordinator on Coach Josh Heupel’s first two teams there. The Vols struggled as they only averaged 346.2 total yards per game, 107th in college football in the year before Golesh and Heupel came to Knoxville.

Golesh has proven throughout his career that he not only knows how to coach Xs and Os on the field but also coaches from the standpoint of positivity with his players. The Bulls had seen Simmons catch seven passes in the first three games before his explosion on Saturday.

“There’s a guy who has been up and down the first three games, but it hasn’t been great for him,” said Golesh. “I told him this week, ‘Just keep pouring into your process. When your process meets the opportunity, you’ll respond and be rewarded for it.’”

 

Overcoming a Major Mistake: Leading 21-20 midway through the third quarter, the Bulls looked like they would take command with the ball sitting on the Rice 2-yard line. Nay’Quan Wright fumbled off the right side in the end one and the Owls recovered with a touchback.

The Owls looked like they had changed the momentum in the game as quarterback J.T. Daniels hit Dean Connors on an 80-yard touchdown pass which allowed the Owls to retake the lead.

The Bulls scored on their next three drives as Brown hit Simmons with a 49-yard TD pass to give USF the lead for good. Brown then found Sean Adkins with an 8-yard touchdown pass before Wright hit pay dirt on a 1-yard run to give the Bulls a 42-21 lead with 8:52 to play.

“I was really disappointed (with the fumble), but there were 15 players telling me ‘Next play, go to the next play.” noted Golesh.

 

Owls’ flight: The Bulls’ defense held Rice to one yard rushing on 20 carries, but Rice QB J.T. Daniels completed 27 of 40 throws for 432 yards and three TDs.

Daniels may be familiar to fans as he has played at four schools in six seasons with two years at USC, two more at Georgia, and then West Virginia last season before landing at Rice.

“We know what we are capable of as a football team and we are certainly more capable than what we showed in the second half,” said Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren.

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